INDIANAPOLIS  – After a troubling and difficult process for pro-lifers, Senate Enrolled Act 1, which limits abortions in Indiana, passed the Legislature and was signed into law late Friday night. 

To begin with, the original draft of SB1 was a gut punch to the pro-life community. After nearly 50 years of advocating for women and unborn babies who have been harmed and killed by the abortion industry, SB1 had a pro-life veneer but contained policies at odds with pro-life principles and even current law. 

That context is important because everything that happened from the introduction of SB1 forward was guided by the weak language that started the process.

Pro-life legal experts from Indiana and around the nation, along with pro-life Hoosier doctors and medical experts, worked around the clock to recommend language to fix the myriad problems of SB1. Some were adopted, some were not. But SB1 as passed looks very different than when introduced, which is key to acquiescence from the major pro-family groups like Indiana Right to Life and the Indiana Family Institute.

Though there is still some disagreement of how SB1 will work upon implementation, here is the good and the bad of the bill as best understood by the policy wonks and attorneys who monitored the debates, reviewed more then 150 amendments (both proposed and offered), and counseled legislators open to our views:

The good:
 
It is estimated that 95% of abortions the that occur annually in Indiana will no longer be performed (some estimate 98%; others perhaps 90%).
 
Abortion clinics are no longer allowed to be licensed by the state and, therefore, will not be allowed to operate. The abortions allowed will take place in a hospital or ambulatory outpatient surgical center majority-owned by a hospital. This takes the procedure, when legal, out of an abortion culture and moves it to a health care environment.

Statistical reporting on abortion in circumstances when permitted will occur quarterly rather than annually, so legislators and others will have more current data on current practices. This means we’ll have some initial indication of implementation trends as the Legislature convenes in January.
 
The Medical Licensing Board is ordered to revoke the license of any physician who  performs an illegal abortion.
 
A doctor could be charged with a level 5 felony by the county prosecutor if he or she performs an illegal abortion.

And the bad:
 
There are exceptions in the bill for rape and incest (up to 10 weeks post-fertilization age/12 weeks gestational age) with vague language that makes the claim difficult or impossible to verify before the abortion occurs. A police report will not be required, so verification that a rape has occurred before the abortion is performed may be impossible.  
 
It is unclear if any restrictions on abortion will apply to pregnancies started through in-vitro fertilization. On page 12, lines 3 and 4 of the bill it states that the entire article does not apply to in-vitro fertilization. 
 
In addition to the exceptions of life of the mother, rape and incest, the bill adds the exception of “lethal fetal anomaly” (up to 20 weeks post-fertilization age/22 weeks gestational age). If it is believed by medical professionals that the unborn baby would not live longer than three months outside the womb, then abortion will be allowed. These difficult diagnoses are often wrong. 
 
Although the bill allows for the criminal prosecution of a doctor who performs an illegal abortion, if a county prosecutor fails to obey the law, there does not appear to be a remedy for prosecuting. The Attorney General’s Office was not given additional prosecutorial power for these situations, a major issue we fought for but ultimately lost.
 
Minors seeking an abortion who claim to be pregnant as a result of rape or incest by a parent, guardian or custodian can receive an abortion without informing the non-offending parent, circumventing Indiana’s parental consent laws and judicial bypass system.
 
So the way this process started and unfolded led to a final bill that is a patchwork and could have some consequences that are unintended by a number of legislators who supported the final bill in a good faith effort to stand for life. Within the estimated 5% of the 8,414 annual abortions (2021 data) allowed, there are a number of circumstances that could be very troubling. However, giving up the opportunity to end abortion clinics in Indiana and see upwards of 95% of abortions outlawed seems imprudent. 

In the days ahead we will monitor developments closely, prepare to pursue closing loopholes in the next session, and remain committed to welcoming all life, born and unborn, throughout Indiana.

We do so because the principle involved – all life deserves legal protection – is not something a pro-life legislator or advocate can compromise on. If you believe it is life, then you fight for all the legal protections.

This is what made the debate so difficult. The normal give and take of the legislative process is inappropriate for life and death decisions. That is what the Declaration of Independence means by our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right to life cannot be given away, taken away, sold, bartered or compromised. So we will take up the good fight again in January and beyond as needed to preserve this principle.

Fifty years on the pro-life frontlines has taught us patience and persistence, two qualities not damaged by the raucous but ultimately invigorating debate just experienced in Indiana. 

Smith is the former president of the Indiana Family Institute and serves on its board.