IN Focus: Demonstrators gather at Statehouse, nationwide to protest abortion bans

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Laws putting restrictions on abortion access are sparking major conversation across the country.

The heated debate hit the Hoosier state on Tuesday with the #StopTheBans day of action rally.  Protesters are trying to stop a wave of anti-abortion laws.  Indiana groups came together in hopes of getting lawmakers to understand their message. They claim an abortion is part of health care.

“Show up, speak out and implore our legislatures to stop the bans,” said Michele Janin, a board member of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana.

The group of protesters and organizations are part of the hundreds of reproductive health advocates voicing opposition to abortion bans across the country. Events like the #StopTheBans rally are being held in almost all 50 states.

Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Indiana and others say the bans will bring a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court that would make abortion inaccessible. Janin says she won’t let that happen.

“Abortion is an incredibly common procedure, it’s safe and legal,” said Janin. “One in four women in the United States will have an abortion before the age of 45.”

Right now, abortion is legal everywhere. But what’s concerning to this group of protesters is the recently passed abortion restrictions in the Hoosier State. Governor Eric Holcomb recently signed House Bills 1211 and 1201.

HB 1211 talks about making a certain abortion technique in the second trimester illegal.

Abortion matters. Provides that a person may not knowingly or intentionally perform a dismemberment abortion unless reasonable medical judgment dictates that performing the dismemberment abortion is necessary to: (1) prevent serious health risks to the mother; or (2) save the mother's life. Provides that the penalty for performing a dismemberment abortion is a Level 5 felony. Provides that certain individuals: (1) may petition for an injunction; (2) may bring an action for the recovery of damages; and (3) are entitled to attorney's fees; if a dismemberment abortion is performed. Provides anonymity safeguards in court or administrative actions for a woman on whom a dismemberment abortion was performed. Amends the definition of "abortion complication".

HB 1201 provides exemptions for physicians, assistants and pharmacists if they don’t want to provide abortions based on personal ethics.

“The bills that I have signed have been out of my own conscience and value for the sanctity of life, and I will continue to evaluate each bill on that premise, regardless of any lawsuit threat,” said Gov. Holcomb.

Just last week, Alabama enacted the strictest abortion law in the country.  It would make abortion illegal in nearly all cases, including rape and incest.  In Georgia, lawmakers enacted a so-called heartbeat law.  Meaning, abortions are illegal once a heartbeat is detected.  And other states like Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri and Louisiana are following suit.

Symone Bailey shared her story of her abortion to the crowd. She was only a teenager when she had an abortion. She says she hopes her voice will make a difference.

“This is happening, and we have to do something about it,” said Bailey.

A representative from the organization Right to Life says they’re paying attention to what’s happening across the country and showing their support for life on their social media page.

On Monday, the Supreme Court took no action to revive two restrictive laws from Indiana. Before Mike Pence became U.S. Vice President, he signed bills into law as Indiana's governor which would make it illegal to undergo an abortion for gender, race and disability and make it a requirement for women to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court could announce whether or not it will revive those laws on May 28.

“It’s not going to stop the need for abortion,” said Janin, “People are still going to get abortions and unfortunately people will die as a result.”

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