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Proposal toughens rules on Indiana abortion providers

Indiana Statehouse

A bill that creates tougher rules on abortion providers is passing through the Statehouse.

Posted: Jan. 25, 2018 9:49 AM
Updated: Jan. 25, 2018 9:49 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A doctor who treats a woman for complications arising from an abortion would have to report detailed information about the patient to the state, under a bill approved by an Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday.

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Supporters of the measure, authored by Republican Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle, say it is intended to protect women’s health and ensure abortions are provided safely.

It would require doctors, hospitals and abortion clinics to report to the State Department of Health each case in which a patient suffers from any of a wide range of medical complications outlined in the bill.

“If the state of Indiana is really interested in the health of women,” said Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne. “... Then the best way we can do this is find out information.”

Opponents argue that the data — which would include where the procedure was performed — could be used to further scrutinize the state’s six remaining abortion clinics. They say it’s invasive and would only erect more hurdles for women in a state that already tightly restricts abortion.

“This is nothing but Big Brother state government sticking their nose into an area of a person’s life that they have no business knowing about,” said Democratic Sen. Tim Lanane, of Anderson.

Lanane was the lone person to oppose the bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-1 vote.

The number of abortions performed in Indiana has declined significantly over the past decade, which anti-abortion advocates attribute to strict laws approved amid a Republican surge to power.

But in more recent years, newer and even stricter abortion laws were found unconstitutional by the courts. That has resulted in the state paying back more than $290,000 in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the laws, state records show.

This year’s bill may not be as prohibitive. But a state analysis indicates that if passed, it could result in more taxpayer-funded court costs.

Under the bill, there is a lengthy list of abortion complications that must be reported. They include serious medical conditions like renal failure, cardiac arrest, hemorrhaging, blood clots and infection. But the measure also lumps in depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

Additional personal information that would be gathered includes a woman’s age, race, how many children they have, if any of their children have died, how many abortions they have had and when their last period was.

The state would summarize the data in a report, though identifying information would not be included.

Supporters said some provisions aimed specifically at abortion medications are needed due the increasing popularity of drugs like RU-486. The data could help health officials if women start obtaining such drugs over the Internet from sketchy sources, they said.

The anti-abortion group Indiana Right to Life said the bill is its top priority. However, some activists have agitated for legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Curt Nisly, of Goshen, that would try to ban abortion by defining human life as beginning at conception. The constitutionally questionable measure won’t advance this session because the House Public Policy Committee didn’t take it up Wednesday during its final meeting before next week’s deadline for action.

It is the second year Nisly’s measure has failed in the GOP-dominated House.

“The ultimate goal of saving lives is laudable and makes sense,” committee Chairman Ben Smaltz of Auburn said. “The underlying strategy to get there is on very loose legal footing and the author himself couldn’t provide a way to navigate through that.”

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Associated Press writer Tom Davies contributed to this report.

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