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Indiana Legislature approves bill toughening abortion rules

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The Indiana Legislature on Wednesday sent a bill to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk that would require medical providers who treat women for complications arising from abortions to report detailed patient information to the state.

Though the bill is not as expansive as Indiana abortion laws passed in recent years – some of which have been thrown out in court – debate has unfolded along familiar lines.

Supporters said it’s necessary to make sure abortions are performed safely.

Opponents, meanwhile, argued it would allow big-government meddling in personal affairs, while miring medical providers – and not just abortion clinics – in bureaucratic red tape. They also note abortions have a low complication rate and question why the same reporting requirements aren’t mandated for other medical procedures.

“It’s couched (like it’s) about public safety, when all it is is a way of shaming and stigmatizing women,” said Democratic Indianapolis Sen. Jean Breaux.

The group Indiana Right to Life, on the other hand, tweeted that they looked forward to the governor “signing this historic legislation.”

A Holcomb spokeswoman would not say whether the Republican governor will sign it, though last year he signed an abortion restrictions bill dealing with parental notification that has since been blocked from taking effect while it is challenged in court.

“This bill was not a part of the governor’s legislative agenda this session. As with all bills that arrive at his desk, the governor will review this one carefully before deciding whether or not to sign,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson.

Bills mandating the reporting of abortion complications are hardly new. At least 20 states have such laws on the books, though the amount of detail that must be reported varies, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which opposes abortion restrictions.

But the group said there has been increased interest in such laws following a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which struck down Texas restrictions that had contributed to the shuttering of more than half of the state’s abortion clinics.

At the time, the high court found there was insufficient data to justify the restrictions, which required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards.

The measure passed Wednesday by the Indiana Legislature would require doctors, hospitals and abortion clinics to report to the State Department of Health each instance in which a patient suffers from any in a wide range of medical complications.

That includes serious medical conditions – like kidney failure, cardiac arrest, hemorrhaging and blood clots – as well as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

It also mandates that a woman suffering from an abortion complication must have additional personal information reported to the state. Some of that is already collected, but under the bill it would be required by law to report details such as woman’s age, race, how many children she has, if any of their children have died and how many abortions they’ve had in the past.

Another provision requires any abortion clinic be inspected at least once a year, with further inspections allowed if a complaint is made. Clinics must also report if any employee has been convicted of a felony, or if any owner or staff member worked at another abortion clinic closed “as a result of administrative or legal action.”

The number of abortions performed in Indiana has declined significantly over the past decade, which anti-abortion advocates attribute to strict laws approved amid a Republican surge to power.

In more recent years, however, newer and even stricter abortion laws approved by lawmakers were found unconstitutional by the courts. That has resulted in the state paying back more than $290,000 in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the laws, state records show.