INDIANAPOLIS – Legal experts say the abortion bill proposed by Indiana Senate Republicans leaves several unanswered questions.
The proposed bill would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy. There are a few exceptions, including victims of rape or incest who sign an affidavit provided to their physician. A police report or criminal charges would not be required.
The mother’s health is another exception, specifically to “prevent a substantial permanent impairment of the life of the mother.”
“It’s just really unclear,” said Dr. Caroline Rouse, legislative co-chair for the Indiana section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which supports abortion rights. “What does this mean?”
During pregnancy, there are numerous health conditions that could fit under that criteria, Dr. Rouse said.
“There is no definitive line between health and life,” Rouse said of the bill. “A condition that is health-threatening today could be life-threatening in 48, 96 hours, two weeks from now.”
Legal experts say if the bill becomes law in its current form, that could be decided by the courts later on.
“My sense is that the first few cases that get litigated if there are challenges will help to settle that,” said Steve Sanders, a professor at the IU Maurer School of Law. “And presumably courts would draw upon other areas such as negligence law or medical malpractice law.”
Although women who obtain an illegal abortion would not face criminal penalties under the bill, enforcement remains unclear, Sanders said.
“I did a word search, and the word ‘enforce’ or ‘enforcement’ doesn’t even appear in the bill,” he said.
The bill does not seek to prohibit Hoosiers from traveling to another state to get an abortion.
The bill will be considered by lawmakers when the special session starts next week. Amendments are expected to be introduced, so the bill could change before the final vote.