NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Senate bill to ban dismemberment abortion advances, plus other updates

Abortion bill merits approval in February urged the passage of House Bill 1211 to end the grizzly practice of dismemberment abortions, which typically occur after the first trimester of pregnancy. It passed the House that month on a 71-25 vote. Now it’s going to the full Republican-dominated Senate, and we urge them to pass it.

Such procedures, according to Fort Wayne OBGYN Christina Francis, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, “are done on a living fetal human being and involve pulling the fetus out of the woman’s uterus piece by piece.”

The bill provides that a person may not knowingly or intentionally perform a dilation and evacuation (dismemberment) abortion unless a physician reasonably believes such an abortion is necessary.

If it passes the Senate, it would make it illegal for doctors to use instruments such as clamps, forceps and scissors to remove a fetus from the womb unless there’s “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” to the woman. Doing so would become a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.

South Bend abortion clinic should be denied

We last wrote an update in November about a Texas group’s attempt to open an abortion clinic in South Bend, which, to date, has been prevented by the Indiana State Health Department.

The Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, based in Austin, Texas, made a request in Indianapolis federal court Wednesday, seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order blocking Indiana’s rules licensing such operations.

Indiana health department data showed an 8.5 percent drop in abortions performed in Indiana in 2016 compared to the year before. That decrease (7,277 more babies were allowed to live) coincided with the closure of South Bend’s last abortion clinic in 2015 after the state revoked Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s license over allegations he violated state laws and regulations. Klopfer had also performed abortions in Fort Wayne. South Bend and Fort Wayne have both been without an abortion clinic ever since.

We agreed with the Indiana Right to Life’s opposition to an application from WWHA a year ago to establish an abortion clinic in South Bend. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, asked the Indiana State Health Department to reject the application. The state health commissioner in January 2018 denied the Texas non-profit an Indiana license.

A court order was issued in the nonprofit’s favor in September, however, reversing the health department’s rejection of the license application. An Indiana State Health Department appeals panel voted 2-1 in November to reverse that order, and the group reapplied for a license in January.

We continue to support the state’s efforts to deny the group a license to proceed with plans for the clinic.

State shelves bill on ID gender

Earlier this week we wrote that we believed the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles was wrong to unilaterally make law a third gender option on Indiana drivers licenses and other state IDs and that the Indiana Legislature needed to be involved in fixing the process.

Now Indiana lawmakers have shelved a bill that would have made it more difficult for residents to change their gender on driver’s licenses or state identification cards. The bill came after the BMV unilaterally announced it was offering a third gender identifier, “X,” for transgender or nonbinary residents who don’t identify as male or female. Indiana law requires every application for a driver’s license or ID card to include information about the applicant’s gender.

The bill would have required a certified and amended birth certificate to complete a gender identity change on credentials issued by the BMV. The bureau currently accepts certified doctor’s notes when processing gender changes.

But the bill was removed from the Indiana House’s calendar this week. House Speaker Brian Bosma said lawmakers decided to hold off on the birth certificate requirement due to concerns about birth certificate inconsistencies. Some birth certificates, varying between counties and hospitals, may list a person’s sex or gender, while others don’t include such information.

Bosma said a special task force or study committee may need to be formed to study the issue.

We urge the Legislature to stay on top of this issue to make sure the law doesn’t redefine social policy.