The law, which was conceived late in the 2016 session of the Indiana General Assembly and researched and written in less time and with less thought than it takes to order a pizza, would have banned abortions performed because a fetus might have a severe disability.
It passed amid considerable controversy. It was a largely Republican measure, but several female GOP lawmakers raised objections during the session and refused to vote for it. They said it was too restrictive and was in many ways degrading to women.
That didn’t matter.
The men in the Indiana General Assembly adopted it and another man, Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence, signed it into law.
The determination of these men to ignore women’s voices when talking about women’s bodies and reproductive choices continued when Judge Tanya Walton Pratt – yes, a woman – issued the injunction.
Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, fulminated that Pratt’s decision wasn’t the final one in the matter – and then lectured the judge on not being sensitive enough in her descriptions of fetal tissue and other child-bearing issues. Long’s moral authority to deliver such a lecture presumably springs from his many experiences in bearing and giving birth to children.
Pence – who, as governor, occupies a seat that, unlike Long’s, cannot be gerrymandered into elective unassailability because it is statewide – seemed slightly more sensitive to the optics of lecturing women about how to be women during an election year. Perhaps that’s why he asked his spokesperson Kara Brooks – yes, a woman – to issue a statement condemning Pratt’s action.
Brooks’ statement was a masterpiece of the non-sequitur school of thought. It started out talking about abortion, took a couple of sharp zig-zags and then somehow magically ended up discussing jobs and schools.
“While disappointed in today’s ruling, Gov. Pence remains steadfast in his support for the unborn, especially those with disabilities. The governor will continue to stand for the sanctity of human life in all stages, for the compassionate and safe treatment of women faced with an enormously difficult decision, and for the rights of citizens to determine appropriate medical safety standards and procedures through their elected representatives. While the judicial process continues, the governor remains focused on growing the already robust Hoosier economy and providing a world class education for all our children.”
In other words, Pence wanted to try to have it both ways. He wanted to reassure the social conservatives who provide what is now his only reliable base of support that he still is with them. At the same time, he wanted to send a signal to those business Republicans and moderates who worry that his preoccupation with divisive social issues distracts him from the questions they care about that he was keeping his eye on the ball.
Good luck with that, governor.
This law was a product of arrogance – the arrogance of unchecked power.
Male Republican lawmakers rushed it through the legislative process simply because they had the votes. The Republican supermajorities in both the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate mean that there is no mechanism, other than a court or an election, to force lawmakers to think, ponder or weigh consequences.
They can act in haste and leave the rest of us to repent in leisure.
Just how this law would have been enforceable is a mystery. Absent significant innovations in telepathy, just how doctors or anyone else would have been able to determine conclusively a woman’s motivation for seeking an abortion was a question Indiana lawmakers and the governor left both unasked and unanswered.
Indiana likely will continue this fight, which is a waste of time and taxpayer money.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a few says earlier striking down another restrictive abortion law in Texas suggests that the chances that Indiana’s law will stand are somewhere between nil and non-existent.
The men in Indiana’s state government may not feel obligated, though, to listen to the nation’s highest court.
Three of the votes on the Supreme Court, you see, belong to women.
It didn’t take the men who brought Indiana’s punitive and ill-thought-out abortion law to respond to a federal judge’s decision to issue an injunction that will keep it from taking effect.