Indiana Catholic Conference
Victoria Arthur
April 14, 2019 // Diocese

Pro-life victories at Statehouse could have national implications

Indiana Catholic Conference
Victoria Arthur

The Indiana General Assembly’s passage of two major pro-life bills represents a “milestone moment” that not only will save the lives of unborn children in the state but possibly lead to a long-term impact on a national scale.

That is the appraisal of Mike Fichter, president and chief executive officer of Indiana Right to Life, who hailed the legislation that now awaits the signature of Gov. Eric Holcomb. House Bill 1211 bans dismemberment abortion, a later-term abortion method that involves tearing a live fetus apart in the uterus and extracting the unborn child piece by piece. Senate Bill 201 expands conscience protection rights beyond physicians and hospital employees to nurses, pharmacists and physician assistants, ensuring that they do not have to participate in abortion procedures if they object on moral grounds. The Indiana Catholic Conference supported both bills and actively lobbied for their passage.

“These were both hard-fought victories that will have far-reaching effects,” Fichter said. “For the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in 1973, a broad range of health care professionals in Indiana will be protected from being forced to violate their personal beliefs. This is so important, because chemical abortion is rapidly rising, and it puts many pharmacists and nurses in the position of having to act against their conscience. In the long run, this will make Indiana a very attractive place – a magnet – for pro-life health care professionals.”

The landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision paved the way for unfettered access to all types of abortions, including the method that House Bill 1211 now prohibits except in cases where a physician “reasonably believes” that performing the procedure is necessary to prevent serious health risks to the mother or to save her life. Dismemberment abortion, also known as dilation and evacuation abortion, is a particularly brutal procedure that occurs in the second trimester of pregnancy, when the first-trimester methods – suction abortion and the abortion pill – are no longer possible because of the unborn child’s growing size.

“It’s tragic that it took 46 years to get to this point, but House Bill 1211 will immediately save lives in Indiana and could in the long term be a vehicle for bringing about the end of Roe v. Wade,” Fichter said.

That’s because the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions, have vowed to challenge the bill upon its passage. Fichter said he is encouraged by the “more conservative nature of the Supreme Court” today as legal challenges to legislation like this make their way through the court system.

“We can expect a lawsuit, and Indiana should not be afraid of that suit,” Fichter said. “We are on very solid constitutional ground.”

Glenn Tebbe of the Indiana Catholic Conference described the passage of House Bill 1211 and Senate Bill 201 by both chambers of the General Assembly as a “monumental step forward” for the pro-life cause in Indiana.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the sanctity of human life, and this groundbreaking legislation speaks volumes about the values that the majority of people in this state hold dear,” said Tebbe, executive director of the ICC, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Indiana.

Tebbe applauded the efforts of the lawmakers who brought the legislation forward. Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) was the primary author of Senate Bill 201, which she has described as essential to updating the state’s quarter-century-old conscience protection laws. In particular, she has cited the 2000 launch of RU-486, the so-called “abortion pill,” as a driving force for extending conscience protection beyond doctors and hospital employees to nurses, pharmacists, and physician assistants.

House Bill 1211 was authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville), Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) and Rep. Christy Stutzman (R-Middlebury). If Gov. Holcomb signs the legislation, as he is expected to do, Indiana will join 10 other states in banning dismemberment abortion, which is considered the method of choice to terminate a pregnancy after the first trimester.

“Many people think abortion is a tidy little procedure that’s simple and safe,” said Mayfield, the bill’s lead author. “When I had to explain dismemberment abortion in our caucus, I tried to avoid the graphic nature of it, but it was impossible. There were people who had their heads in their hands as they listened to the details.”

The legislation’s passage comes at a pivotal time, as the movie “Unplanned” – which shines a light on the inner workings of the abortion industry – is exceeding all expectations at the box office. The film chronicles the true story of Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, who fled the organization after being asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion and witnessing a 13-week-old fetus fight against the instruments used in the procedure.

“All of a sudden, she said the scales fell from her eyes,” said Jodi Smith, a lobbyist for Indiana Right to Life and a personal friend of Johnson. “For the first time, she saw the baby behind the procedure.”

Smith texted Johnson – now an outspoken pro-life advocate – to congratulate her before the film’s March 29 nationwide release. Its unexpected success at the box office speaks to the power of the pro-life movement at the grassroots level, according to Smith. Indiana Right to Life affiliates drew significant crowds to theaters around the state for preview screenings ahead of the movie’s official opening, as well as in the days that followed. Smith says that the film could not have come at a better time given the momentum at the Statehouse.

“Indiana is ripe for this legislation,” said Smith, who also serves as state director of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national organization that supports pro-life lawmakers and educates Americans about where their legislators stand on protecting the unborn. “I’m so proud and so excited that Indiana is finally taking these bold steps.”

To follow priority legislation of the ICC, visit This website includes access to I-CAN, the Indiana Catholic Action Network, which offers the Church’s position on key issues. Those who sign up for I-CAN receive alerts on legislation moving forward and ways to contact their elected representatives.

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