Controversial abortion bill cleared by Senate health committee

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INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 18, 2015) - After a heated debate, a Senate panel approved a controversial abortion bill that would prohibit some procedures based on the reason for the abortion.

Senate Bill 334 would outlaw abortions sought only because of the baby's gender, or because of a developmental disability.

“We think people that are born with disabilities, and women, have value and therefore we would ban abortion based on merely those selection criteria,” said one of the bill’s authors, Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

The bill passed the Senate health committee 7-4 Wednesday morning, but not without controversy.

“This bill said that you cannot have any option when it comes to being diagnosed with a potentially severely disabled child and you have no options, except to give birth to that child,” said state Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who was one of three Democrats who voted against the bill.

Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville was the lone Republican to vote against the measure.

“There’s no evidence in the United States that we do abortion for sex selection purposes, no evidence whatsoever,” said Becker.

“Globally that’s an issue,” countered Brown. “We certainly don’t want to be like other nations in that respect.”

On the disability issue, Brown pointed to incidents where doctors mistakenly told expectant parents their child could have a disability.

“We heard testimony where doctors urged women to get abortions because they thought their child was going to be born with disability, but in fact that wasn’t the case,” said Brown. “And at what point do we decide that someone born with a disability, that their life is not worth as much as anyone else’s.”

“If somebody has a developmentally-disabled fetus it ought to be a decision that is left up to them, their family and their physician,” said Becker. “It also says that women aren’t smart enough to make decisions on their own, that government must make it for them.”

“I found it very offensive as a female,” said Breaux. “Because it seemed to imply that I was not able to take the information provided to me by my doctor and discussions I may have with my family and come to a conclusion that works best for me and my family.”

The committee did change the bill slightly, taking out the possibility of criminal prosecution for doctors who still perform procedures under those circumstances.

The bill now heads to the full Senate next week.

"I think it has a chance of passing, but I hope that it doesn’t, because I think it violates a family’s right to make the decision," said Breaux.

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