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Abortion rights groups vow continued fight as near-total ban takes effect

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Abortion rights supporters on Thursday said Indiana’s new abortion ban will be their number one target in November.

The new law took effect at midnight after a judge declined to put it on hold, citing an upcoming hearing on Monday. Abortion is now illegal in the state of Indiana except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities, or to prevent the death of or serious physical injury to the mother. The rape and incest exceptions expire 10 weeks into the pregnancy while the fatal fetal abnormalities exception runs out at 20 weeks or once the fetus becomes viable, whichever happens first.

Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana’s legal director said the law doesn’t make clear whether the life and physical health exception also runs out at 20 weeks. He said that vagueness is one of the issues the ACLU cites in its ongoing lawsuit.

“This is a sorry day for people in Indiana,” he said. “Abortion and the need to get an abortion is a health care right and people are going to suffer.”

Opponents of abortion hailed the law’s entry into force. Indiana Right to Life CEO Mike Fichter in a statement called the law a new opportunity.

“This historic moment is not about who wins and who loses, or about mere politics and court battles, but about a fresh new hope that a movement of the heart will unfold in Indiana that sets the pace for protecting life and providing the care and support pregnant mothers deserve,” he said.

The law prohibits abortions from being carried out anywhere other than at a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center affiliated with a hospital. This means Indiana’s abortion clinics can no longer provide the service. Seven such clinics performed more than 98 percent of all abortions statewide last year.

Planned Parenthood’s website shows its Indiana clinics still provide other services such as emergency contraception, abortion referrals, and women’s health exams. A spokesperson for Women’s Med said that group’s Indianapolis clinic is still providing post-operative care for existing patients, but performs no other services. Women’s Med said for now, Indiana patients will be referred to its clinic in Dayton, Ohio. A judge on Wednesday put that state’s abortion ban on hold pending further litigation.

Democrats called the new law an attack on women’s rights of the kind usually seen in authoritarian countries. In a news conference featuring several Democratic candidates for office, they said the abortion ban comes up more frequently in their interactions with voters than any other issue, including the economy.

“You can hold Republicans accountable for saying our little girls should be forced to give birth,” new Marion County Democratic Party Chair Myla Eldridge said. “You can hold Republicans accountable for saying women should sacrifice their lives during birth.”

News 8 contacted the offices of Reps. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, and Joanna King, R-Middlebury, who sponsored the bill during its time in the Indiana House. McNamara did not respond to a request for comment while King’s office said she would not comment due to pending litigation surrounding the new law. National Right to Life legal counsel Jim Bopp, who is based in Terre Haute, said he would defer any comments to Fichter, who did not respond to a request for further comment.