Indiana moves to expanding religious objection to abortion

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are moving closer to allowing nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists to object on religious or other grounds to having any role in an abortion.

The Indiana House voted 69-25 on Thursday in favor of the legislation, which would expand the statute for medical professionals who don't want to perform an abortion or participate in any procedure that results in an abortion. That includes prescribing, administering or dispensing an abortion-inducing drug, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported .

State law already authorizes physicians, hospital employees and health clinic staffers to opt out of abortion-related health care based on an ethical, moral or religious objection to abortion. The new measure would extend that option to nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists.

Forty-six states currently allow some health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services, according to a March analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.

The Indiana bill's sponsor, state Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler, said that nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists who aren't directly employed by a hospital or health clinic deserve the same right as other medical professional not to provide medical assistance for terminating a pregnancy if that conflicts with their personal beliefs.

Opponents argued that the proposal potentially puts women at risk of death if they are denied care in an emergency situation, or if a pharmacist refuses to provide medication required to complete a miscarriage because it also can be used to induce an abortion.

"Religious freedom does not include the right to harm others," said state Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis.

State Rep. Chris Chyung, D-Dyer, suggested that the legislation could also lead to pharmacists denying emergency contraception to rape victims seeking to prevent pregnancy.

But Bacon responded that his legislation "does not address contraception at all. This is abortion-inducing drugs."

The legislation now returns to the Senate to determine if that chamber consents to a technical change made by the House. If the measure is re-approved, it will go to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is expected to sign it into law.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com

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