By Sean Gallagher
Special to The Message
The Indiana Senate burned the midnight oil in the first week of the special session of the Indiana General Assembly as it considered dozens of proposed amendments to Senate Bill 1, which would ban most abortions in the state.
SB1 was made possible by the June 24 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. The majority in the Dobbs ruling said that Roe was mistaken in interpreting the Constitution as protecting a right to abortion. The Court’s ruling returned the regulation of abortion to the states.
While Gov. Eric Holcomb had originally called a special session of the Indiana General Assembly to consider inflation relief for Hoosiers, the Dobbs ruling soon put abortion law in the forefront as legislators returned to the Statehouse. The General Assembly is the first state legislature in the country to meet in a special session to consider abortion legislation.
With advocates opposed to SB1 making their voices heard outside the chamber on July 30, Senators narrowly passed it in a 26-20 vote.
Although the debate and vote on SB1 may have gained the lion’s share of media and protester attention in the first week of the Indiana General Assembly’s special session, legislators also came together in a bipartisan effort to approve aid to mothers and families in need, and inflation relief for all Hoosiers.
During the special session’s first week, leaders of the Indiana Catholic Conference — the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana — advocated for the strengthening of SB1, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 1001.
SB1, which moved to the House for consideration following the July 30 Senate vote, would give legal protection to all unborn life in the state except for those conceived in rape or incest; in cases in which the life of the mother was at risk; and in cases of fatal fetal anomalies. It was authored by Sen. Sue Glick (R-LaGrange).
“The amendment process strengthened SB1 from the ICC’s perspective and addressed some of the original bill's pitfalls,” said Alexander Mingus, associate director of the ICC. “As a whole, the bill as it stands would better protect preborn children compared to current law.”
Some senators who voted against SB1 objected that it did not protect unborn life enough.
Although the bill would allow abortions in limited cases, the ICC supports the bill, following St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), which taught that the support of laws that would limit the harm done by intrinsic moral evils like abortion if a complete ban is not politically possible (#73).
As SB1 moves to the House, the ICC will continue to advocate for amendments that would strengthen it.
SB2 and provisions in HB1001 have been proposed by legislators as companions to SB1, offering aid to mothers and families in need at the same time that legal protection is being extended to most unborn children in the state.
SB2, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Ossian), would create the Hoosier Families First Fund and put $45 million in it for a variety of programs and initiatives.
“The Catholic Church has a history of providing aid, comfort and support for mothers and families,” said Angela Espada, executive director of the ICC. “It hopes that the allotted $45 million will improve the lives of Hoosiers by supporting adoption, pregnancy planning, and the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers and infants – along with supporting the needs of families with children less than four years old. Additionally, there are funds to address the barriers to long-acting reversible contraception.”
One of the few proposed amendments to HB1001 that was adopted would fund instruction for natural family planning. The funding could fill any existing gaps between insurance coverage and the full cost of coverage for NFP instructors. HB1001 was authored by Sharon Negele (R-Attica).
As SB2 moves to the House and HB1001 moves to the Senate, Espada looks to advocate for amendments that failed to be adopted by the Senate.
They include tax credits to employers who give paid family leave, and reasonable and effective pregnancy accommodations.
In its inflation relief provisions, SB2 focused on freezing state taxes on utilities. The ICC opposed this on the grounds that it would give only about $18 per month in aid to families.
“Additionally, those who rent and do not pay utilities or those without cars would not benefit,” Espada said.
The House are considering SB1 and SB2 this week, with an expected vote on them to take place by Aug. 5. The special session is expected to be completed by Aug. 14.
Those wishing to contact their legislators asking them to protect the life of the unborn and promote services that help women and children can go to indianacc.org/action-alerts and select “Encourage Legislators to Support Unborn Life in Special Session.”
For more information and ways to get involved with the ICC and its mission, visit www.indianacc.org.
Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.