Abortion rights advocates have eyes on Indiana. On July 25, the state began a special legislative session to debate a near-total ban on abortion. It’s the first session of its kind since the US entered a post-Roe era. And it's on the Biden admin's watch list. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the state ahead of the session to host a roundtable with Indiana Democrats. And she spoke to theSkimm about how the battle in Indiana highlights the "health care crisis" the US is facing.
Why Indiana is the new battleground for abortion access
Currently in Indiana, abortions aren’t allowed 22 weeks past a person’s last menstrual period. But Republicans in the Hoosier State are looking to change that. On July 20, state Senate Republican leaders rolled out a new bill that would ban nearly all abortions. The fine print:
There would be exceptions for rape, incest, and when the pregnant woman’s life is at risk or in the case of fatal fetal anomalies.
In cases of rape or incest, the patient would need to sign an affidavit explaining their reasoning in order for a doctor to perform an abortion. (PS: In some states, like Utah, the requirements include filing a police report).
If the legislation passes, Indiana would join the ranks of states like Oklahoma. Aka places that have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the US. Now, the proposed bill hangs in the balance as state lawmakers carry out a special session debate that’s expected to last a couple of weeks.
VP Harris puts a national spotlight on abortion rights, and the midterm elections
Indiana has been making headlines for weeks. In late June, a 10-year-old Ohio girl traveled to the state to get an abortion after she was raped. (Reminder: Ohio has banned abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.) The Indiana attorney general has even threatened to charge the doctor who treated the girl. Now, a new proposed ban has brought Indiana back in the spotlight. And has caught the veep's attention. She met with Indiana Dems about protecting reproductive rights. The VP also spoke to theSkimm's news podcast “Skimm This” in Indiana. Here's what she had to say when asked…
Psst: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What will be the impact of President Biden’s executive order? And what do you say to people who think it doesn't go far enough?
“We want to make sure that women know that they have a constitutional right to travel interstate. So the executive order deals with that and reinforces the rights that women have. The executive order — also through the work that's happening independently with the Department of Justice — will ensure that we put in place protections and responses if there is an infringement on that right.
“There is also a big issue right now [surrounding] medication abortion, and whether that medication is going to be in any way impeded by any of these states. The executive order has made clear that the FDA approved this medication. It is medically approved and we are going to make sure that it is available to people and not in any way prohibited based on what's happening in these states.”
What's your message for people who feel frustrated by their state government's response following the reversal of Roe v. Wade?
“This is a health care crisis and it demands a response that recognizes that now is the moment and the time to stand up. We need to elect a pro-choice Congress. [President Biden] has said that he will sign legislation on the Women's Health Protection Act [which would protect the right to abortion under federal law]. But we need two more senators in the US Senate so he can get to the point of doing that.
“We need to recognize local elections matter. In these states where they're criminalizing health care providers, pay attention to who you elect as your prosecutor [and] as your DA. Pay attention to the fact that in a lot of the states that are restricting a woman's right to make decisions about her body, they're also restricting access to the voting booth. Who your secretary of state [is] matters, who your governor [is] matters. All of these elections matter.”
Psst...Tune in to "Skimm This" to listen to our full interview with VP Harris.
Indiana’s proposed abortion ban is part of a larger trend that’s got advocates across the country worried about increasingly restrictive abortion laws. And it has the Biden admin blaring the alarm about the need for active voter participation in the 2022 midterms in order to enact greater protections.
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