Indiana Republicans pairing abortion ban with services boost
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Republican lawmakers are pairing a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in the state with promises to boost spending toward helping pregnant women, young children and adoptions.
Republicans say the proposals show dedication to mothers and babies. Democrats say Republicans have underfunded such programs for years and rejected earlier efforts to help pregnant women.
A proposal from Senate Republicans would allocate $45 million more in the coming year toward state agencies that “support the health of pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants” through pregnancy planning and access to contraception, especially among low-income families. The support would be available for families with children under four years old and comes along with an estimated $5 million increase in tax credits for adoptive families.
“For those people who are childbearing age who have children that they’re not equipped to take care of, we want the state of Indiana to assist them in bringing healthy babies into this world and taking care of them after they get here,” said Republican Sen. Sue Glick of LaGrange, who is sponsoring the abortion ban bill.
A separate bill from House Republicans aims to expand the adoption tax credit and directs $58 million toward bolstering services for pregnant women, including $30 million for pregnancy-related costs under the Medicaid program for low-income families.
The abortion ban bill, released Wednesday following the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, would allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to protect a woman’s life. It will be debated during a special legislative session starting Monday.
Democrats argue Republicans frequently rejected calls to increase funding for programs to help pregnant women and young children, even as the Supreme Court’s abortion decision was anticipated.
“It’s about time,” Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor said. “We should have done it months ago when we knew this was coming and we knew we would have a budget surplus.”
Twice in recent years, Republican legislators turned aside Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for a law requiring businesses to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant women.
Provisions such as allowing longer breaks or transfers to less physical work are cast by supporters as ways to improve Indiana’s infant mortality rate; Federal statistics show the state had the country’s 9th worst in 2020, with 527 infant deaths.
Legislative leaders acknowledge the abortion ban could increase the state’s Medicaid and other expenses. A ban on most of the approximately 8,400 abortions performed in Indiana in 2021 would add an unknown number to the state’s live births, about 80,000 of which occurred last year, according to the state health department.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said the new funding would “ramp up these programs, make sure they’re adequate, make sure there’s adequate staff and services for what will be, probably, a bump in need.”
Glick said the added funding could also be directed to women’s pregnancy centers, “where information can be provided to people who just don’t know” their options when they are pregnant.
These “crisis pregnancy centers,” anti-abortion and usually religiously affiliated, offer free but restricted services that in part counsel patients against having an abortion. They are generally not licensed as medical facilities, raising questions about whether it’s appropriate to funnel so much tax money their way.
An Associated Press tally based on state budget figures reveals these centers received nearly $89 million across about a dozen states this fiscal year. A decade ago, the annual funding for the programs hovered around $17 million in around eight states.
At least 13 states funneled roughly $495 million to these crisis centers since 2010, with Indiana coming in sixth in the United States at $18.2 million. The greatest allocation in the U.S. was from Texas, which directed over $200 million to its pregnancy centers.
“I’m confident we’ll find a thoughtful way forward that shows compassion for both mothers and babies,” Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers