Post-Roe, pro-lifers are grappling with potential next steps in the fight to end legal abortion. Last week, Catholics for Life petitioned the Supreme Court to recognize the unborn as persons under the law. This week, Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed a bill that would ban most late-term abortions. And yesterday, Indiana’s new abortion law, SB 1, took effect.
The bill is facing lawsuits from the ACLU, but it is also controversial among pro-lifers. The bill has been described as a near-total abortion ban with narrow exceptions for the life and health of the mother, rape and incest, and lethal fetal anomaly, but some pro-life Hoosiers are concerned that it is full of loopholes and potentially devastating consequences.
For example, SB 1 allows a baby conceived in rape or incest to be aborted up to ten weeks after conception (or 12 weeks of pregnancy measured from the woman’s last menstrual period), but the bill does not require proof of the crime. A previous version of the bill required the mother to sign an affidavit attesting to the rape or incest, but this language was removed. The final version only requires that the attending physician (that is, the abortionist) “certify in writing … after proper examination, the abortion is being performed at the woman’s request because the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.” The abortionist must include “[a]ll facts and reasons supporting the certification,” but that’s all. No affidavit, no police report, no criminal charges, no rape kit, and no legal consequences for a woman who lies.
SB 1 also terminates licensure for abortion clinics, requiring all abortions still legal under the bill to be done either in a hospital or in an ambulatory outpatient surgical center with majority ownership by a hospital. Chrystal Sisson, a pro-life sidewalk counselor, said this “completely ends” her sidewalk outreach, as she will have no way of knowing why a woman is entering a hospital or surgical center.
Sisson stands outside of the Women’s Med clinic in Indianapolis at least once a week where she and other pro-life advocates call to the women, telling them about the love of Jesus and life in the womb and offering prayer and help. Sisson, who has been sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics since 2013, said that in just the last two weeks they have seen nine babies saved from abortion, only counting ones where parents came and told the sidewalk counselors they had changed their minds and chosen life.
“That’s the ministry that they just ended,” Sisson said, “the nine babies that were saved within the last two weeks.”
Mike Fichter, president of Indiana Right to Life told me in an email that clinics might remain open as sites for abortion counseling and referrals, allowing sidewalk counselors to continue their work. For the time being, Women’s Med is still open.
Sisson said that when she first started coming the clinic did abortions one day a week, typically 20-25. She said there was an uptick beginning around 2020, when the clinic was open a second day and the average number of abortions each week was more like 40. After the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Sisson said, the numbers exploded. She claims the clinic performs 60 to 80 abortions almost every weekday following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.
An amendment to SB 1 proposed by Rep. Curt Nisly would have banned abortion altogether, but the overwhelmingly Republican House of Representatives voted down the amendment 93-6. Nisly voted against the final version of the bill. “In the end, it was an abortion bill; it wasn’t a life bill,” he told me.
Fichter said that the bill, while not the end, was “a major step forward.” The consequences of the bill largely remain to be seen. Whether SB 1 turns out to be a victory or a setback for protecting the unborn, for Hoosiers like for the rest of America, the fight is far from over.