Abortion Is Now Illegal in Indiana If the Reason You Want One Makes Republicans Uncomfortable

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Indiana governor Mike Pence. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

If you want an abortion because your fetus has a debilitating genetic defect, it is now illegal for you to get one in Indiana. On Thursday night, Republican governor Mike Pence signed a bill that bans abortions motivated by fetal genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome. The legislation makes Indiana the second state, after North Dakota, to deny women a constitutionally protected right if Republicans don’t like the reason they want to exercise it. The bill is set to go into effect this summer, but Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky told the Associated Press that it will ask a court to block the measure.

The bill also prohibits abortions motivated by the race or gender of the fetus. Advocates for the bill frame it as an affirmation of the value of all human life, including that of the potentially disabled. But the ban would ostensibly prohibit abortions in instances where a fetus’s genetic defects are so severe, survival beyond the womb is virtually impossible.

We know that you’re going to be forcing woman and families to suffer emotionally because they’re going to be forced to carry pregnancies that are not viable,” Kate Connors, director of communications for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the AP.

Beyond the substance of the issue, making the legality of a procedure contingent on a person’s motivation for pursuing it raises all kinds of epistemological and logistical problems. Ostensibly, a woman in Indiana can abort a fetus that has genetic abnormalities, so long as she’s not doing so because the fetus has genetic abnormalities. Or, more precisely, so long as she doesn’t tell her doctor that she wants an abortion for that reason — it’s unlikely that Indiana law enforcement has the resources to psychoanalyze every abortion-seeking woman to discover what her true motivations are, which, after all, could be unconscious!

Really, then, the legislation prohibits open conversation between women and their doctors under a specific set of circumstances. Under the law, doctors can be sued for wrongful death if they perform forbidden abortions. Women who request such abortions will face no legal liability.

The law’s other main provision is more enforceable, if just as bizarre: Every aborted fetus in Indiana must now be buried or cremated.

If you care about abortion rights and live in a purple state, you should probably vote every chance you get.

Indiana Governor Signs Fetal-Defect Abortion Ban