INDIANAPOLIS - A bill that would stop Planned Parenthood's clinic in Lafayette from distributing an abortion-inducing drug won the Indiana House's approval Tuesday and is soon likely to head to Gov. Mike Pence's desk.
The House stripped out a portion of the measure that would have mandated ultrasounds before women have abortions, but kept language that requires clinics where the drug RU-486 is prescribed to meet surgical standards, even if those clinics do not offer surgical abortions.
That would specifically affect a clinic in Lafayette, which offers the drug but not the surgical procedure. Other Planned Parenthood clinics offer both, and private physicians who prescribe the drug are excluded from its regulations.
The measure now heads back to the state Senate, where its author, Republican Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle, said he's likely to concur with the changes the House made and send Senate Bill 371 on to Pence to be signed into law.
"My objective with this bill was to enact prudent safety regulations for abortion-inducing drugs and the clinics that offer them. These have previously not been regulated by our state, and I believe that places women's lives at serious risk," Holdman said. "After seeing the amendments proposed by the House, I'm inclined to agree with their changes."
Its passage was assailed by reproductive rights groups who said lawmakers are more concerned with eliminating access to abortions than patient safety.
"Claiming the additional regulations in this bill are about 'patient safety' is a smokescreen," said Betty Cockrum, the president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. "Legislators really intend to chip away at Hoosier women's access to abortion – and as part of a coordinated national effort, shut down Planned Parenthood's health care centers that also provide preventive care."
The bill was the subject of a brief House floor debate Tuesday before the 70-25 vote to approve it.
Its House sponsor, Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, said the bill is intended to keep women safe from complications that can arise as a result of the drug.
"Because I have a 21-year-old daughter, this really hits home," she said.
Another House Republican argued that the measure would cause young women seeking the abortion-inducing drug to pause.
Some girls currently "spend more time researching what dress she wants to wear to prom than terminating the life of an unborn child," said freshman Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville.
Such young women would have to "actually give it some thoughtful consideration" before seeking the drug as a result of the bill, she said.
"Again, it sounds harsh, I'm not saying it happens all the time – we know it happens," Ziemke said.
Democrats complained that majority Republicans are advancing abortion regulations without advancing companion measures to make carrying children to term easier for young and low-income women.
"Many of the pro-life supporters don't extend their concern to the child after it's born, especially those who perceive the programs as being socialistic," said Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond, the No. 2-ranking House Democrat.
"So why aren't we talking more about the basic rights of a pregnant woman? Why aren't we talking about birth control? Why aren't we talking about education for young mothers? Why aren't we talking about maternity leave? Why aren't we talking about housing allowance?"
Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, noted that Pence called for a moratorium on new state regulations. She said it should apply to the abortion bill, "which has to be a perfect example of government overreach."