March 2, 2011 // Local

Indiana General Assembly reaches the halfway mark

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

INDIANAPOLIS — In spite of a walkout protest by House Democrats over labor and school choice legislation, the Senate passed a bill to improve Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion. And legislation to protect the sanctity of marriage has advanced as the General Assembly reaches its halfway mark of the legislative session.

The Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy arm of the six Indiana bishops and official representative of the Church, has worked this year to support both legislative efforts to curb abortion and to protect marriage.

The informed consent bill, Senate Bill 328, authored by Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, would expand the amount of required information prior to receiving an abortion. The additional information required would include: potential infertility and danger to a subsequent pregnancy; possible risks of infection, hemorrhage or breast cancer; physicians’ 24-hour emergency contact information; availability of follow-up care; documentation showing human physical life begins at conception; and materials citing sources who say a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks of post-fertilization age.

The bill also requires that the information be provided to the mother in writing 18 hours prior to the abortion and made available online by the Indiana Department of Health. Current law allows information to be given verbally. Adoption alternatives would be made available including that adoptive parents may be responsible for some the expenses of carrying the baby to term.

“For any minor surgeries doctors are required to explain procedures to patients in detail,” Banks said. “Senate Bill 328 would ensure that women who seek abortions are given that same consideration and access to information.”

Banks said the proposal would apply today’s customary standards in the medical marketplace to provide patients with verbal and printed information about a medical procedure. The Senate passed the bill Feb. 22. ICC supports the bill.

The marriage amendment resolution, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 6, sponsored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon, provides for an addition of a marriage amendment to the Indiana Constitution.

“The legislation would affirm current Indiana law that marriage is between one man and one woman,” said Glenn Tebbe, Indiana Catholic Conference executive director. “It would also prohibit civil unions for same-sex couples.”

The language in the proposed amendment is the same as passed in Kentucky and Wisconsin. The resolution must be passed by the 2011 Indiana General Assembly and by another General Assembly in 2013 or 2014 before the amendment could be placed on the ballot for voters.

“Indiana’s law has been supported by Indiana courts and only marriage between a man and a woman is recognized in Indiana,” said Tebbe, “But without a constitutional amendment ensuring that marriage is between a man and woman, a future court challenge could result in Indiana recognizing same-sex marriage.” The resolution passed Feb. 15 by a 70-26 vote. ICC supports HJR 6 and legislation that strengthens the sanctity of marriage.

Children who attend nonpublic schools and need special education services will have a better chance to receive them under the special education grants proposal which passed the House, 91-1, Feb. 10.

The Special Education Grants legislation, HB 1341, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, requires that state funds generated by special needs students enrolled in nonpublic schools to be spent on their behalf. Under current law, there is no requirement that the money generated by special education students enrolled in nonpublic schools be spent on them.

Behning said the goal of the bill is to ensure that the children attending nonpublic schools who are generating the dollars get a proportional share of the services.

According to John Elcesser, Indiana Non-public Education Association (INPEA) executive director, who testified in support of the bill, it has been estimated that nonpublic school students with disabilities generate up to $11 million dollars for the state. “If all that money was being spent on direct services to those students, I think the impact could be enormous,” said Elcesser. The ICC supports the bill.

Twenty-three bills died on the House side as a result of the House Democrat members leaving in protest for a week of legislative business. Unless the deadline is extended, the school scholarship bill, HB 1003, will also fail. Under the proposal, families that qualify are eligible for scholarship to use at the private school of their choice. Families of lower to moderate income whose children were currently enrolled in a public school will be eligible. The Indiana Catholic Conference supports the school choice measure.

The Indiana General Assembly has reached it’s midpoint in the 2011 session also commonly referred to as “crossover.” House bills which passed move or cross over to the Senate. Senate bills which passed now cross over to the House side for consideration.

The Indiana General Assembly must pass a two-year budget by the April 29, adjournment deadline or Gov. Mitch Daniels will have to call a special session to complete a budget before it goes into effect July 1, 2011.

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