Kristin Kohn, the owner of Silver in the City, speaks against an abortion ban proposal on July 21 in Indianapolis. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)
Anti-abortion and pro-choice groups both criticized a Republican abortion bill unveiled Wednesday, with opposing sides arguing the measure doesn’t reflect the will of Hoosiers.
The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a letter signed by more than 250 businesses across 30 cities in the state, all signaling their opposition to the abortion legislation introduced yesterday. The bill would ban abortion statewide starting at conception with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Though an apparent win for the pro-life movement, Indiana Right to Life called the bill weak and troubling, indicating that Hoosiers on both sides of the divide are unhappy with the final result.
Senate Republicans introduced the proposal along with legislation to spend $50 million for support programs for women and children as well as a bill countering Gov. Eric Holcomb’s request to return the $1 billion surplus to Hoosier taxpayers via $225 checks.
Business leaders decry anti-abortion bill
The bill seemed to counter the research Republicans privately authorized that showed little support for a full ban with many pushing for allowing abortions up to 12 to 15 weeks.
Katie Blair, the director of advocacy and public policy with the ACLU, said lawmakers were “out of step” with the rest of Hoosiers.
“Before the Dobbs decision we had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation; every year our legislature comes to the Statehouse and chips away at that access,” Blair said. “We certainly don’t need more (laws) and we certainly don’t need a ban.”
Blair and other business leaders indicated they would appear at the Statehouse next week to testify against the proposed ban.
Blair noted that in states with better access to contraception, women have high labor force participation, more frequently pursue full-time work, have higher median wages and experience better job mobility. Indiana doesn’t qualify as one of those states.
For employers like Kristin Kohn, who owns Silver in the City, a gift shop in Indianapolis and Carmel, the lack of abortion access would impact her employees, who might not be able to work if they are unable to plan their pregnancies.
“When women have the opportunity to seek gainful employment and provide for themselves and their families, they are empowered members of our society,” she said. “When we take away their rights to make reproductive choices, including safe and legal abortion… we are stripping them of opportunity and hobbling our economy as a result.”
Kohn said an abortion ban was “unacceptable” for states that value women and encouraged more businesses to sign the ACLU’s letter to lawmakers.
“It took guts and courage to put myself out there,” Kohn said. “But that’s something which business owners and entrepreneurs are known for.”
Response from the right
Even anti-abortion proponents were disappointed in the bill.
Late Wednesday night, Indiana Right to Life decried the bill for “lacking teeth” by not including new penalties or enough enforcement.
Mike Fichter, the Indiana Right to Life president and chief executive, called the bill “weak and troubling,” saying it fell “woefully short” of what he’d suggested.
“The bill fails substantively in many areas, but chiefly in its failure to provide any meaningful enforcement provisions,” Fichter said. “This bill goes through the motions on paper, but lacks any teeth to actually reduce abortions in Indiana.”
Fichter claims abortions would continue unabated in Indiana because prosecutors in some cities had already proclaimed they wouldn’t pursue criminal charges related to abortion, such as Ryan Mears in Indianapolis.
“That is unacceptable and pro-life Hoosiers will not silently let that stand,” Fichter said.
Pushback from the faith community
Nearly 400 faith leaders from various denominations signed another letter to lawmakers imploring them to maintain abortion access, as some religious teachings allow for, or even require, abortion as part of maternal healthcare.
“The premise that human life begins at conception or that an embryo should be accorded legal protection is not a universally held tenet,” the letter reads. “Indiana should not privilege one particular Christian belief above other religious beliefs by codifying it into law. To do so violates the separation of church and state and robs other people of faith… of the freedom to make these decisions in accordance with their core religious beliefs.”
The letter’s signatories included Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists from more than 20 different counties in Indiana. The letter emphasizes that health is a “uniquely” sensitive and private matter beest left to individuals, their physicians and their faith.
“It is significant that so many Hoosiers representing different faiths have come together to express their concern about reproductive freedom and health care during this special session,” said Rabbi Emerita Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, with the Congregation Beth El Zedeck in Indianapolis and the co-founder of Women4Change Indiana.
“We are sending a powerful message to our Governor and legislators that this is a matter of religious freedom – a freedom that should not be curtailed by state laws favoring one faith perspective over others.”
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