Brian Howey: Indiana becoming an abortion restriction island


By Brian Howey

Guest columnist

Indiana is turning into an abortion island.

Girded by gerrymandered General Assembly maps, along with an anemic and broke Democrat Party, a year ago, Republican supermajorities passed and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed some of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the United States.

But on a single-issue referendum vote on Aug. 8, Ohio voters followed a national trend, rejecting by a 57% no vote a measure that would have increased the threshold for constitutional amendments from a simple 50% plus one majority to 60%. That sets the stage for November when voters in our red state neighbor to the east are expected to ensure continued abortion access.

According to Ballotpedia, in 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year. Measures to preserve abortion access were approved in California (67%), Michigan (57%) and Vermont (77%). Measures for constitutional amendments outlawing most abortions were defeated in Kansas (59%), Kentucky (52%) and Montana (53%).

In Kansas and Kentucky — which are as conservative as Indiana, though both have Democratic governors — voters rejected ballot measures to state that nothing in their state constitutions creates a right to abortion or requires government funding of abortions.

In Michigan, 56.7% passed Proposal 3, the Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom, in 2022.

While Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky have a constitutional amendment process that requires a citizen signature threshold to appear on a ballot, Indiana’s process requires two bills in separately elected General Assemblies to pass a constitutional amendment to qualify for the ballot. That will not happen on the abortion issue in the Republican supermajority House and Senate.

But Indiana voters are not unlike those in Michigan and Kansas. In a 2022 Hoosier Poll by Ball State University’s Bowen Center, 56.7% — identical to the Michigan result — believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Abortions had been legal up to 22 weeks. But after Gov. Holcomb quietly signed SEA 1 last August, abortion will only be allowed up to 12 weeks in instances of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. Fetal anomaly abortions are only permitted up to 20 weeks.

This means that for Indiana women seeking an abortion, instead of traveling to Indianapolis, Bloomington or South Bend, they will have to drive to Chicago, Kalamazoo, Lansing or Louisville, and after the expected passage of abortion access amendment in November, to Ohio cities like Toledo, Dayton, Columbus or Cincinnati.

As for the political atmosphere, Republicans seeking the 2024 gubernatorial nomination — U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden and former attorney general Curtis Hill — all ardently support abortion restrictions.

The lone Democrat running, former Republican superintendent of public instruction Jennifer McCormick, supports abortion rights. She told me last June, “I do support the standards that were set by Roe. I support a woman’s right to choose.”

Beyond McCormick’s gubernatorial candidacy, few Democrats are stepping up, though many campaigns begin to take shape between Labor Day and next February’s filing deadline. One is Matt McNally, who is seeking a rematch against State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, after he lost in 2022 52.4% to 47.6%. Citing “supermajority rule” since 2014 and the signing of SEA 1, McNally said, “I believe decision-makers at our state capitol have embraced extreme policies that are out of step with our Carmel and Westfield communities.”

Beyond Indiana, the recent referendum results have gotten the attention of Republicans.

“The Ohio result tonight, coming on the heels of the shellacking in Michigan and the unexpected loss in Kentucky, needs to be a five-alarm fire for the pro-life movement,” Patrick Brown, a conservative scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, tweeted Aug. 8.

Brian Howey is managing editor of Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs at, where this column was previously published. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol. Send comments to [email protected].

No posts to display