Indiana Bill Would Ban Abortions, Declare Unborn Babies “Human Beings” at Conception

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 9, 2019   |   6:40PM   |   Indianapolis, Indiana

A bill filed this week in Indiana seeks to end abortions in the Hoosier State.

The “Protection at Conception” bill, sponsored by state Rep. Curt Nisly, would recognize that unborn babies are human beings from the moment of fertilization in the state criminal code and prohibit all abortions, CBS 4 News reports.

“What has happened here since the first time I filed is we’re seeing a lot of interest in this here in Indiana, but also around the country,” Nisly told the Indy Star. “This idea is definitively going mainstream here.”

This is the third year Nisly introduced the bill. He included additional language this year explaining why he believes Indiana has the authority to protect unborn babies’ lives, according to the report.

“The courts of the United States have no jurisdiction to interfere with Indiana’s interest in protecting human physical life from the moment that human physical life begins,” the bill states.

However, such bills can be controversial even among pro-life advocates because of the unlikelihood of them succeeding in a legal challenge. When states lose these battles, taxpayers often are forced to pay pro-abortion groups’ legal fees.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, who is pro-life, previously expressed these concerns about Nisly’s bill, as did House Public Policy Chairman Ben Smaltz.

According to the local news:

“I don’t think we should buy a lawsuit, personally,” Bosma said prior to the 2017 legislative session, regarding a similar bill from Nisly. In November, he reiterated the same concerns.

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In recent years, a number of less restrictive abortion-related bills have ended up in the courts. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to take up a 2016 Indiana law — signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence but never enacted because of a federal court injunction — that prohibits abortions based on race, gender and disability, and required the aborted remains to be buried.

Bosma said he has not reviewed the bill this year or discussed it with his caucus.

Pro-abortion groups have succeeded in overturning similar laws in court. In 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a personhood bill as unconstitutional because it recognized unborn babies as human beings who deserve the right to life.

Though these lawmakers have good intentions to save unborn babies’ lives, personhood legislation, even if upheld in court, may not make abortions illegal. When considering a Missouri statute in 1989, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled that the personhood statute was nothing more than a statement of position that had no bearing on banning abortions or even limiting them in any way.

Missouri had approved a statute saying, “the life of each human being begins at conception” and “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.” The statute required that all Missouri state laws be interpreted to provide unborn children with rights equal to those enjoyed by other persons.

The U.S. Court for the Western District of Missouri struck down that provision and the abortion limits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed and ruled they violated Roe.

The U.S. Supreme Court then ruled that it did not need to consider the constitutionality of the law’s preamble, defining personhood at conception, as it could not be used to support any abortion laws that conflicted with Roe. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the personhood language Missouri used decades ago but did not allow it to ban — or even limit — any abortions.

There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain. Some legal scholars have speculated that the current court would be more likely to consider cases that gradually chip away at Roe v. Wade – such as a dismemberment abortion ban – rather than reverse it completely.