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Emotions run high as abortion access testimony begins at Statehouse

Protesters on both sides of the abortion access debate made their voices heard Monday as the special session got underway at the Indiana Statehouse.

INDIANAPOLIS — Just a few feet away from lawmakers, men, women and children protested the abortion legislation being considered Monday in the Senate.

Some want to see abortion eliminated. Others are pushing for women, not lawmakers, to make these decisions.

Inside the Senate chambers, speakers addressing lawmakers were split on the future of abortion access in the state of Indiana, but agree they don't support Senate Bill 1 as is.

"You will endanger the lives of pregnant people in my downtown neighborhood experiencing homelessness who would have no ability to travel out of state to obtain adequate reproductive health care," said Rev. Gray Lesesne, dean of Christ Church Cathedral. "And you would endanger the lives of pregnant people sitting in my pews who face high-risk pregnancies where local doctors may refuse to care for them for fear of being prosecuted."

Ariel Ream said she's battled lupus and autoimmune diseases, telling lawmakers she and her husband have been trying to conceive through IVF, but is at high risk for stillbirth or miscarriages. She warns lawmakers that if she were to get pregnant, this bill could kill her. 

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"It simply is too vague. When is it enough? When am I hemorrhaging enough to be able to get care? What doctor is not going to be scared, as we've heard today, to not lose their license to give me the care that I need? That's terrifying," Ream said. She told lawmakers her husband is urging them to stop IVF treatments until they can be sure she could get medical care if complications arose. 

“We can’t continue on this battle because I’m not sure you’ll make it. I can’t tell you what that means to me when my husband says to me, 'I’m scared to have a baby through IVF because I don’t know if you’ll live and I don’t if I can get you the care you’ll need in time to survive it,'” Ream said, holding back tears. 

Others tell lawmakers they believe the exemptions in SB1 will ensure abortions continue and babies die, calling for stronger punishments for doctors.

"I ask that we remove or refine the exemption language, protect all unborn children, and place appropriate criminal penalties for willfully and unnecessarily taking the life of an unborn child," said Dr. Tyler Johnson, a physician from northeast Indiana. 

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-District 33, questioned Johnson on if he would support requiring woman to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth even if fatal fetal anomalies existed for the child. 

“For that child to live outside the womb, they have to have a brain, they have to have a heart, they have to have lungs. If they lose those in that process, would you have that mother have that child?” Taylor asked.  

“Yes," Johnson replied. 

RELATED: Here's what you need to know about the 1st week of the special session on the abortion ban and tax refund

Jodi Smith with Indiana Right to Life said lawmakers have firmly sided with them in the past on abortion. She's calling on them to change up this bill entirely and be more direct to protect the unborn.

"Probably the best analogy I can say is Swiss cheese - there's so many holes. And indeed, we do believe that increases access to abortion because of the lack of clarity and definition," Smith said. “It does little to put safeguards in place that guarantees the 8,414 babies who lost their lives to abortion in Indiana’s last year will have the right to life."

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