Insulting New Abortion Law Forces Women to Pay for Fetus Funerals
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed one of the most vicious anti-abortion bills in the country into law. It forbids women from getting abortions in cases of fetal disability and requires women to inter or cremate fetal remains.
Image via Christian Gideon / Stocksy
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills in the country into law. In addition to some of the typical restrictions now favored in large swaths of the South and Midwest—medically unnecessary requirements that force clinics to shut down, for example—the bill, titled House Bill 1337, contains some uniquely disturbing provisions as well.
There are several parts of the unsettlingly comprehensive bill that different outlets have singled out: It requires women to pay for funeral services for their fetuses after getting an abortion or miscarrying. It forces women who want to get an abortion due to lethal fetal abnormalities to undergo counseling that encourages them to carry the doomed and potentially dangerous pregnancy to term. It forbids women from getting an abortion based on fetal disability. It prohibits sex-selective abortions—a fairly common justification for abortion restrictions, one for which there is "limited and inconclusive evidence," according to the Guttmacher Institute. In a statement, the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) called the legislation "one of the most vicious omnibus anti-abortion bills the United States has ever seen."
Even before HB 1337, Indiana had some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. Women there are required to take two separate trips to the clinic in order to obtain abortion care, and restrictions have already forced all but a handful of clinics to close, according to Liam Morley, an executive leader at Pro-Choice South Bend. This newest batch of restrictions, she said, "are not medically informed or evidence-based, but just based on morality and this hostility [towards women]."
Currently, seven other states have sex-selective abortion bans in place; only one other state, North Dakota, forbids abortion in the case of fetal disability. According to a 2014 study by the University of Chicago Law School and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, there is little, if any, evidence to show that sex-selective abortions even take place in America. According to the study's findings, such laws are simply "intended to place restrictions on abortion services generally."
Pro-choice advocates say that legislation banning abortion based on pregnant women's motivation for seeking the procedure is particularly harmful because it forces doctors to scrutinize their patients' choices; by potentially holding doctors liable for providing services to women, laws like this have a chilling effect on medical professionals. "Since it is difficult to determine the true reason a woman has chosen to terminate her pregnancy, medical professionals may err on the side of caution and deny care to women in order to avoid liability under the law, even when a woman is not seeking a sex-selective abortion," the study concludes.
This is one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures in the country and only further penalizes Indiana women and their doctors.
"This is one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures in the country and only further penalizes Indiana women and their doctors for accessing constitutionally protected abortion care," said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. "Preventing a woman from choosing abortion based on a medical diagnosis substitutes a politician's ideology for a woman's judgment."
Indeed, Governor Pence does not seem to be shy about the ideological nature of the ban. In a statement, he said, "By enacting this legislation, we take an important step in protecting the unborn... I sign this legislation with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mothers, and families." He previously called the bill "a comprehensive pro-life measure."
Morley pointed out that the state of Indiana's Medicaid system is "incredibly broken," meaning that children born from forced pregnancies likely won't receive much state aid. "If people are having children that they don't want, what happens then? Regardless of the reasons for which they don't want to continue this pregnancy, what happens when we make them carry out that pregnancy for our own moral bias?" she asked. "People who have children that they don't want tend to have higher rates of abuse; infanticide becomes an option. Who's really benefitting from this ban?"
Even some staunchly pro-life Republicans have criticized the bill for its severity. According to the Chicago Tribune, Representative Sean Eberhart, a Republican, discussed the bill with his wife, who he described as "as pro-life as they come," and later decried the law as "a perfect example a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women." He added, "We need to quit pretending we know what's best for women and their health care needs."
Morley agrees with this sentiment. "Across the board, overwhelmingly, people [in Indiana] are appalled," she told Broadly, noting that the provision requiring women to bury their miscarriages, in particular, is "very, very heartless and strange." "The lived reality for people who are affected by this bill—it's totally unthinkable to imagine living this bill out."