Indiana Law Will Force Women To Pay For Fetus Funerals

by Lily Myers

Last week, the Indiana state legislature quietly approved House Bill 1337, which, if signed, would radically restrict abortion access in the state by making procedures both more expensive and more intimidating. HB 1337 includes extreme measures that fall into the tired patterns of TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider) laws we’ve seen before. But this law is far more restrictive than most states’.

Apart from requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, the bill also requires women to receive a mandatory ultrasound and listen to the fetus’ heartbeat before the procedure. This is, of course, completely medically unnecessary; it’s a tactic of emotional manipulation and shaming. This ultrasound must occur 18 hours prior to the abortion. Since only 4 clinics exist in all of Indiana’s 92 counties, women must travel large distances to have the procedure, paying for not only their travel costs but overnight accommodation as well.

And speaking of costs, the bill would also require women to pay for either cremation or burial for the aborted fetus. Yes, you read that right. Women would be legally required to fund a funeral for the aborted fetus. If that isn’t just the perfect blend of emotional shaming and economic manipulation, I don’t know what is. This stipulation would back up a 2015 law passed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, which required that fetuses be “disposed of in a humane way.” Never mind what’s humane for the woman, right?

That’s not all. HB 1337 would also prohibit women from aborting a fetus due to a diagnosis of any type of disability, including Down’s syndrome. Any doctor caught providing an abortion for this reason would face a wrongful death conviction. The law requires women to provide a motivation for their abortion that is deemed adequate; Indiana is the second state, after North Dakota, that can legally refuse an abortion if the woman’s reason is not deemed “good enough.” Under this bill, a life-threatening illness would not fit into this category.

HB 1337 would make legal abortions — and lest we forget, these abortions are supposed to be legal — much more expensive, difficult, emotionally taxing, and traumatic. The terrifying part is that the bill’s already passed; all it needs is for Governor Mike Pence (he of the “humane disposal” law) to sign off. On Monday, pro-choice activists showed up at his office, petitioning him to veto the bill. It didn’t seem to have much effect. “We’ll give that very careful and thoughtful consideration in the days ahead and we’ll come to a conclusion,” Pence told the Indiana Public Media Group. “But I do bring my belief in the sanctity of life to that and that will inform the way that I evaluate that, ultimately.”

The bill has gotten little attention in the media; we’ve seen none of the expected outrage that maybe, just maybe, could have stalled the bill’s passing. And now it may be too late. A stringently anti-abortion governor has a stringently anti-abortion bill sitting on his desk; the clock is ticking. However, there is substantial Republican disapproval of this bill, and maybe it will make Pence pause. Conservatives have called out the bill as being too strict, an overreach of government power. Republican Sean Eberhart was persuaded to oppose the bill by his wife, even though she’s “as pro-life as they come.”

“Today is a perfect example a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women,” Eberhart said. “We need to quit pretending we know what’s best for women and their health care needs.”

Um… yeah. Thanks, Eberhart. Kinda what we’ve been saying all along. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that Pence comes to the same conclusion. My prayers are with you, Indiana.

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