There is only one clinic in Western Indiana and it offers only medication abortion. Indiana Right to Life and the state’s anti-choice politicians believe that simply cannot be allowed. To close the clinic, a new TRAP law has been proposed that will force the Planned Parenthood clinic of Lafayette to be reclassified as an “abortion clinic,” and forced to adhere to the same facility layouts and restrictions as all of the state’s surgical abortion clinics, despite the fact that it doesn’t offer surgical abortions at all.
“SB 371 is a thinly veiled effort at preventing our Lafayette health center from providing our patients with the option of non-surgical abortion – a safe and legal early-term procedure,” said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana via statement. “Non-surgical abortion has proven to be safer than everyday medications such as acetaminophen. In fact, the bill recognizes this by exempting non-surgical abortions provided in doctors’ offices.”
Both SB 371 and SB 489, a bill that would require new printed “informed consent” documents to be given to women, which would include color pictures of fetal development (because, as one legislator explained, black and white versions aren’t “realistic” enough), were debated in a contentious senate committee panel. Each side received 30 minutes for testimony. Supporters of the bill in the legislature are almost all men and are primarily affiliated with Indiana Right to Life. Only one medical practitioner spoke in favor of the bill, a retired OBGYN associated with the anti-choice group. A roster of clergy, doctors, and medical students opposed both bills, underscoring that they would jeopardize the doctor- patient relationship. “[Bill proponents] testify that it’s harmful to let people see the fetus when it passes,” said Anna Gaddy of Medical Students for Choice, referring to anti-choice testimony regarding why RU-486 abortions “hurt” women. “I think it’s harmful to force them to listen to a heartbeat.”
Although testimony surrounding both bills focused on alleged safety and information concerns for those seeking abortions, the number of testimonials from religious groups on both sides of the aisle could not be ignored. Speaking on behalf of the bill were members of the state’s Catholic conference, while opposition included a handful of members of Indiana’s Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights. “For people of faith, reproductive justice is a moral imperative,” testified Rev. Linda Dolby of United Methodist Church in Lafayette. “Justice calls for equality in access to safe and legal procedures that are available for all.”
Despite rejecting repeated questions from the committee about why, if these regulations are necessary for the safety of all patients undergoing a medication abortion, the law only affected clinics, not private physicians, SB 371 passed and will go on to the Senate for a full vote. SB 489 also passed out of committee after an amendment was added to allow women to opt out of viewing an ultrasound or listening to fetal heart tones, although an ultrasound would still need to be performed.
“And here we thought our conservative legislators were interested in smaller government and less regulation. It’s clear that these bills are about politics, not women’s health or safety,” said Planned Parenthood’s Cockrum. “We oppose both of them because politicians should never be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions.”
If SB 371 is signed into law, the Lafayette clinic will either be required to stop performing medication abortions or will need to rebuild its facility to include wider halls and rooms, new sterilization equipment and specialized laundry services, and will require on-site anesthesia. If the clinic ceases performing medication abortions, patients would need to travel at least an additional hour for abortion services, and in some cases may find their best option is to simply leave the state.