Abortion-rights supporters Wednesday called on Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb to oppose an Indiana bill that would grant fertilized human eggs the same rights as those who have been born — legislation that some believe was designed to provoke a legal fight that might eventually challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion.
State Rep. Curt Nisly's bill, which has yet to be considered by a House committee, defines human life as beginning when a human egg is fertilized by a sperm, despite the standard set by Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion until the point in a pregnancy at which a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. That is generally considered to be at 22 to 24 weeks.
Some activists who support the measure hope a potential legal challenge will reach the nation's highest court, possibly leading to an overturn of Roe v. Wade.
To voice opposition to the measure, which they call unconstitutional, the Indiana Reproductive Justice Coalition delivered a nearly-3,000 signature petition Wednesday to Holcomb's office.
"In just one week, nearly 3,000 Hoosiers urged a stop to this bill. It's time for our lawmakers to heed their constituency," said Wanda Savala, of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. "We know firsthand that access to health care, and reproductive health care in particular, is an urgent issue."
Holcomb opposes abortion but has said he doesn't want to focus on social issues this legislative session. Stephanie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the governor, declined to say whether Holcomb supports or opposes the measure, adding that he plans to deal with bills that survive the legislative session on a case-by-case basis.
Nisly told The Associated Press that the measure wasn't crafted to reach the Supreme Court.
"Anyone can challenge any law. The intention of this bill is solely to stop the killing of humans after they are alive," he said, adding that he's received support from around the state.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, meanwhile, opposes the bill because he believes it would quickly be challenged in court — a legal fight the state would be obligated to pay for.
"I don't think we should buy a lawsuit, personally," Bosma said in November when Nisly announced he would push the measure.
But some say that's the point.
"I think we are in a perfect dance right now to see the killing of our children stop," said conservative activist Monica Boyer, who pointed to the vacancy on the Supreme Court and potential for the appointment of an anti-abortion justice. "I believe that we are going to see the end of Roe soon. In my lifetime."
The newly-formed coalition, which is comprised of a number of grassroots and non-profit organizations, said it saw a need to present a unified message in opposition to anti-abortion legislation.
Last year, a law banning abortions because of fetal genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, or the fetus' race, sex or ancestry was signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence.
The law was challenged and a federal judge in June temporarily blocked it from taking effect, saying it would likely be found unconstitutional.
The law also mandated that the only way to dispose of an aborted fetus was through burial or cremation.
At a news conference Wednesday, abortion rights activists said they planned to closely monitor the Statehouse this session, citing a bill by Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse, of Auburn, as another concern.
Kruse's measure would require an ultrasound at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed and mandate that the pregnant woman view the ultrasound and hear the fetal heart tone.
Follow Darcy Costello on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ dctello
This story has been corrected to reflect that the law banning abortions because of fetal abnormalities was blocked by a federal judge in June, not July.
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