Commentary

A mother’s advice to Indiana legislators post-Roe

July 1, 2022 7:00 am

The Indiana House of Representatives. (Photo by Monroe Bush for Indiana Capital Chronicle)

My daughter texted just hours after the landmark abortion precedent Roe v. Wade was struck down, asking about immediately getting a new IUD and expressing rage, sadness and frustration over what might come next.

“This is something I won’t stop fighting about,” she said. “My body is mine. No one makes decisions on it for me.”

She had already been weighing new options for birth control but suddenly the semi-permanency of an IUD – one that presumably a legislature can’t force out of her – seemed wise.

I didn’t have any words for my 22-year-old. A week later I’m still looking for them.

But I do have a few for Indiana Republicans set to restrict abortion when they return July 25.

Considerations

Remember when you and all your colleagues railed about “bodily autonomy” last session? When candidates for office added medical freedom to their platforms, amid passionate declarations decrying COVID-19 restrictions? Suddenly, you’re silent.

You talked about the possibility of long-term effects of a new vaccine, but aren’t talking about the known risks you are forcing on a woman bringing a pregnancy to term. A woman’s body is put under extreme stress during a nine-month pregnancy and will never be the same after birth.

Birth carries far more risk than abortion. A study from the University of Colorado said in the United States, carrying a pregnancy to term is 33 times riskier than having an abortion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 0.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 abortions compared to 20.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

It’s not as simple as saying “just give the child up for adoption.”

A woman can use birth control responsibly and still end up pregnant because nothing is 100% effective. Most of the Indiana lawmakers I know are fair and honest, so I hope you’ll consider this when deciding whether to ban all abortions or allow them up to a minimal time, such as 15 weeks.

No transparency

I wish I had some idea what is coming, but this special session – a rarity in Indiana history because it isn’t related to the state budget – is steeped in silence. Somewhere I presume Republicans are meeting behind-closed-doors to hash out a draft bill, seeing what limits can pass and which ones might cause friction.

But no drafts are public yet. And very few legislators are going on the record about issues such as exceptions and penalties.

It should go without saying that a woman who is raped should not be forced to carry her attacker’s progeny to term. The emotional impacts of this cannot be overstated. Alas, other state legislatures have not made such exceptions. Surely, here in Indiana we can be more compassionate.

The same can be said about situations that could arise when a fetus has died inside the womb. Are you going to force women to carry it for months more? And what about ectopic pregnancies when a fertilized egg grows outside the main cavity of the uterus? These pregnancies aren’t viable, and could be life-threatening. How to treat them is complicated in a post-Roe world.

Will you try to stop Hoosier women from crossing state lines to secure an abortion where it is legal? I couldn’t help noticing last Friday when the ruling came down, Republicans celebrated the idea of state’s rights. I hope you continue to respect states’ decisions on abortion – even if they don’t align with your own.

Helping women

House Speaker Todd Huston has pointedly said any restrictions will be coupled with supports for women, and I will hold him to that. Indiana’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ awards haven’t been raised in decades.

Indiana’s rate of women receiving prenatal care is astoundingly low — at 18% — and its maternal and infant mortality rates rival those of a third-world country. A state report also found 86 of Indiana’s 92 counties have “inadequate” access to quality childcare.

Already one proposal has come out to cover adoption costs for foster children and I applaud it.

It’s easy to say you are pro-life but now Hoosier Republicans have to put the supports in place to show they’re more than pro-birth.

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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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