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House passes bill toughening abortion rules

An anti-abortion bill that would require medical providers to report more patient information to the state has been approved by the Indiana House.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 8:54 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 9:14 AM

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

Though the bill is not as expansive as abortion laws passed in recent years — some of which have been thrown out in court — the debate unfolded along familiar lines.

"I don't think we are going to change anyone's mind," said Republican Rep. Peggy Mayfield of Martinsville, who sponsored the bill in the House. "We all came (here) pretty much knowing where we stand on this topic."

Supporters have characterized it as a "public health" bill, necessary to make sure abortions are being provided safely. Opponents argue it would allow big-government meddling in personal affairs, while miring medical providers — and not just abortion clinics — in bureaucratic red tape.

The measure was passed on a 67-26 vote, with two Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Democratic Minority Leader Terry Goodin, of Austin, was "excused" and did not vote, though he has often sided with Republicans on abortion issues.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, which must sign off or reject a number of small changes made in the House.

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

That includes serious medical conditions like kidney failure, cardiac arrest, hemorrhaging, blood clots and infection. But the measure also lumps in depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

It also mandates that a woman suffering from an abortion complication have additional personal information reported to the state. Some of that is already collected, but under the bill it would be required by law to report details such as woman's age, race, how many children she has, if any of their children have died, how many abortions they have had and when their last period was.

"The state is the only oversight body for the abortion procedure," Mayfield said. "Government has a duty and responsibility to provide regulation."

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.

In more recent years, however, newer and even stricter abortion laws were approved only to be 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.

Rep. Matt Pierce, a Bloomington Democrat who voted against the bill, likened the yearly debate over abortion legislation to "Groundhog's Day."

"I've been here long enough to have seen this happen over and over again," he said. "It (gets) ruled unconstitutional and then it just ends up with a big check written to (the ACLU)."

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