Other Republicans echoed the complaints voiced during public testimony by anti-abortion residents, advocacy groups and religious leaders. They questioned how lawmakers who portrayed themselves to voters as staunch abortion opponents were now forgoing an opportunity to pass a ban without exceptions for rape and incest. Some abortion opponents have argued that rape and incest, while traumatic, do not justify ending the life of a fetus that had no control over its conception.
“This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the preborn human being,” said Representative John Jacob, a Republican who also voted against the bill. He added: “Republicans campaigned that they are pro-life. Pro-life means for life. That is not just some lives. That means all lives.”
Similar debates have played out in West Virginia, where the House of Delegates passed a bill that would ban nearly all abortions. But disagreement broke out when the Senate narrowly decided to remove criminal penalties for medical providers who perform abortion illegally, citing fears that it could worsen the state’s existing shortage of health care workers. The legislation is stalled.
Delegate Danielle Walker, a West Virginia Democrat, said she believed the abortion referendum in Kansas was a wake-up call for the more moderate contingent of Republican legislators.
“I think they’re seeing that people are coming out to the polls because the people don’t want this, the people don’t support it,” Ms. Walker said.
Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said that Indiana offered a glimpse of the dynamic that could deepen in other legislatures in the coming weeks: the difficulty in pleasing their conservative base in the face of other public opposition to abortion restrictions.
“In Indiana, the legislators are now between a rock and a hard place,” she said. “They’re between their base,” which is demanding an abortion ban with no exception, “and members of the public who are saying, ‘we support abortion access.’ You can see how the legislators, who are balancing people’s rights, are also looking at the next election.”
Ava Sasani contributed reporting.