INDIANAPOLIS — The floor shook in the Statehouse’s Senate Chamber as pro-choice protesters stomped on the floor in the outside hallway, their booming voices repeatedly shouting “Shame!” after the Indiana Senate voted on Saturday to pass Senate Bill 1 to restrict access to abortion in Indiana.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Senate Chamber early in the morning, with some arriving as early as 9:30 a.m. to protest the Senate session scheduled nearly two hours later.
Chants of “We are dissidents!” did not fade as the Senate met at 11:15 a.m.
Several times during the session, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch (right) had to use her gavel to call to order and wait for silence in the chamber. She even threatened to have the gallery cleared of public observers for not following the rules and cheering for pro-choice sentiments.
The third reading of SB 1 took place on Saturday, where 26 senators – just enough – voted to send this bill to the House of Representatives.
The bill, originally banning abortions except in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother, now provides an eight-week time limit for having an abortion in cases of rape and incest, 12 weeks if they are under 16.
Senator Susan Glick (R-13), the author of SB 1, introduced the bill, opening questions.
“Is it possible that someone who is eight weeks pregnant doesn’t know that?” asked Senator Shelli Yoder (D-40).
Glick said that with today’s technology, it’s hard for her to believe that someone wouldn’t know she’s pregnant, and she later said that this bill wouldn’t force anyone to become relative.
Sen. Eddie Melton (D-3) said he had proposed an amendment for religious exceptions, which would allow people whose faith includes access to abortion, a belief he says is shared by many of his constituents. He asked Glick why she thinks the amendment should not be included.
Glick says it’s hard to know what a sincere religious belief is.
The demonstrators still chanted loud enough to be heard in the Senate Chamber: “Damn no, we’re not going back!” and “Vote them!”
Tensions were high between Glick and Senate Democrats when the floor opened for discussion.
Protesters quieted down as the discussion began, and Sen. Jean Breaux (D-34) said she didn’t expect to be responsible for a bill that hurts people.
“I bow my head in shame and grief and pray that this bill does not become law,” she said.
Senator Liz Brown (R-15) posed several questions to several Democratic senators as they testified about their views on abortion.
“Is there a limit to when a baby has to be born alive?” she asked several Democratic senators who opposed SB 1. She said after viability, abortion should be unthinkable; absolutely no abortion should be allowed at 39 weeks.
Later in the discussion, Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-30) spoke with frustration and anger, almost to the point of screaming, saying SB 1 sends a message that Indiana doesn’t trust women.
“They talk about limits, I don’t want to play God, that’s my limit,” he said to cheers from protesters in the hallway. He said the bill is founded on religious belief, whereas America was founded on religious freedom.
“If you really want to stop abortions in Indiana, invest in Hoosiers,” Qaddoura said. “I would never dare in my life to play God.”
While the vast majority of those discussing the bill in the Senate were Democrats, a few notable Republicans testified.
Sen. Michael Young (R-35) said SB 1 was not enough. He would vote no because he has problems with the language used in the bill, not because he is pro-choice.
Young proposed an amendment earlier this week that would remove the rape and incest exceptions.
Young wasn’t the only Republican to oppose the bill. But Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-50) opposed the bill for very different reasons.
“I’m a proud lifelong Republican from Southwest Indiana,” Becker said. “I am a Republican because of my deep belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the government’s obligation to serve, protect, and meet the needs of the people of my district.”
Becker said SB 1 violates all of those Republican principles.
While she was the only Republican to oppose the bill for being too strict during Senate discussions, she was not the only Republican senator to vote no on the bill for similar reasons.
As Becker returned to his seat, Sen. Ron Alting (R-22), who represents West Lafayette, stood in the aisle and hugged Becker before she returned to her seat.
Alting voted against SB 1 during the Senate session on Saturday. He said the bill was “nothing but an attack on women”.
Alting has been against this bill for a month, he said. He is in favor of allowing abortions throughout the first trimester, which is around 12 weeks.
This bill is far too restrictive for Alting, who said he wants to strike a balance between protecting the unborn child and giving the choice to the woman.
“The facts are that a rapist can choose who the mother of his child is,” he said of Bill, shaking with emotion, his eyes watering. He said the exceptions to rape and incest are terrible for women.
It’s not just the “attack” on women’s rights that worries Alting. He said he is also not fiscally responsible for passing SB 1 into law.
OB/GYNs won’t want to come to Indiana if this passes, Alting said. No high-tech company will want to come here, he said, and it won’t be good for Indiana businesses.
Alting said the bill would also affect universities. Professors may not want to come here, and that will certainly affect companies that want to do research with universities like Purdue.
Before, during and after Saturday’s Senate session, pro-choice protesters shouted angrily at senators.
Katie Blair, the ACLU’s director of advocacy and public policy, said it took them less than 24 hours to organize the protest, and even with that short time, plenty of people showed up.
She said the ACLU will be there as long as it takes and will use every tool possible to protect abortion rights.
As the senators left the room after the session adjourned, people were pointing, shouting profanities and chasing the senators to the elevator.
Chelsea Pack, who is from Muncie, was in tears after the Senate voted to forward the bill to the House.
“Either you stand up for human rights or you don’t represent anything,” Pack said. “Eighteen of our senators voted ‘yes’ for the kids to carry a baby.”
Pack said she has been protesting for human rights for years. “What do we have to show for this?” she asked rhetorically.
Di Harding, of Indianapolis, arrived at 9:30 a.m. and was surprised by the number of people who showed up to protest.
Harding said she will “continue to protest, try to encourage those who didn’t come to come in the future.”
At least 200 people showed up to protest SB 1, but few pro-life demonstrators made it.
“We’re not done,” Harding said. “We are not defeated. …Today’s disgusting act won’t be the last word.