— Emboldened by their majorities in both houses of the Indiana General Assembly, some Republican state lawmakers intend to push for tighter controls on abortions during the coming legislative session.

Working with Indiana Right to Life, state Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, and Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, say they will offer legislation modeled after a Nebraska law prohibiting late-term abortion. They also are seeking to cut off Planned Parenthood of Indiana's government funding.

Although Gov. Mitch Daniels has said his focus will be on fiscal issues as well as education and local government reform, Walker said he wants to simultaneously tackle social issues, and that he has plenty of fellow lawmakers on his side.

Walker said the regulations he wants would enforce tighter standards for late-term abortions and aim to make informational literature more available and accurate for all women considering abortions.

Current Indiana law appears to forbid all abortions after 20 weeks, or about five months, of pregnancy. However, the state regulations are largely misunderstood, said Mike Fichter, president of Indiana Right to Life.

A pregnant woman can still request late termination for any health-related reason and receive the surgery in Indiana, he said.

"If the mother would say that having this child creates stress in me, that would be a sufficient enough reason for an abortion," Fichter said.

Indiana law requires that all fetal terminations after the 20-week cutoff be performed in a hospital or ambulatory clinic.

The legislation Walker and Culver intend to offer aims to eliminate abortions after that point entirely.

Both Fichter and Walker said scientific evidence indicates fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation.

The legislation is being drafted in an attempt to thwart the business plans of Nebraska abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart, who is being forced out by the state's new abortion law. He has said he might open a clinic in Indianapolis.

Fichter expressed concern about the possibility of Indiana becoming a haven for pregnant mothers who wish to abort in the second or third trimester.

Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, disagrees. She said Carhart has mentioned that an Indianapolis abortion center would be used solely for regular, first-trimester procedures.

What Cockrum is afraid of, however, is what she calls the very real possibility of losing government funding for several Planned Parenthood sites throughout the state.

Walker said his legislation also includes a plan to remove all taxpayer funding from the family planning clinics. Fichter supports the move, saying that in a year when the state budget is so tight, the state would be smart to save its money by removing taxpayer dollars from an organization that many find "objectionable."

Cockrum said she believes that the move may produce the opposite of the intended effect. She said that without the free health care Planned Parenthood provides, more of her patients would neglect their sexual safety needs and end up with unwanted pregnancies.

"Chances are they just wouldn't do it (birth control). Eighty-two percent of our patients are uninsured," Cockrum said.

"These are the lowest of low-income patients."

According to Cockrum, eight of the organization's 28 Indiana health centers operate on government funding, which is used to provide low-income men and women with birth control options, Pap smears and testing or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. If the legislation passes, she said, 21,000 Indiana families would lose their free health care.

Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, is opposed to the removal of Planned Parenthood funding as well.

"Planned Parenthood is very important for women who cannot afford good medical care anywhere else," Riecken said.

"I support their efforts to give good quality medical care to women."

Cockrum said she fears the worst. Though she said Planned Parenthood of Indiana is "having conversations with legislators" to convince them of possible ramifications of the abortion bill, she believes the new Republican-controlled Legislature gives it a good chance of passing.

Fichter is optimistic that the Republicans will support the bill and make it law.

"This is legislation that many people support. It's something that's going to be very popular with Hoosiers," Fichter said.

He said he understands that the abortion debate is a hot one, and that the legislation may stir up controversy with Indiana's "pro-choice" advocates. Still, he explained, his organization's goal is not simply to appease the pro-abortion crowd.

"Our objective is to pass legislation that protects unborn children and lowers Indiana's abortion rate," he said.

"We are proposing a range of bills that will accomplish that very thing."

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