HEA 1337 consists of three main points, each more insulting than the last.
First, a woman is forbidden from obtaining an abortion because of a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of a disability. Though there is an exception in the case of lethal fetal anomalies, this law will force a woman to continue a pregnancy, affected by profound, if not lethal, physical, mental or medical disability, regardless of her wishes. In doing so, suffering is forced upon the child, and the pregnant woman takes on risks and dangers to her own body. Pregnancy is a dangerous time, exposing a woman to risks to both her health and safety. Physicians have a responsibility to counsel patients about the realities of their conditions, discuss the full range of treatment options, and accomplish all this without judgement.
Second, by prohibiting physicians from performing abortions sought for a diagnosis of a potential disability, the law also deters physicians from making referrals or even counseling patients about all options if the fetus has been diagnosed – or could be diagnosed – with a disability. If a doctor attempts to provide a full range of options to her patient, then she might fear that she could face professional liability or culpability for merely discussing abortion—a safe, legal medical procedure. This is in direct violation of the oath physicians all swear: to prevent disease, respect patients as fellow human beings, and care for patients with empathy and understanding.
Third, and arguably most offensive, is a new provision that requires miscarried or aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated. This provision is not about compassion or dignity. It is about shaming and coercion. Instead of physically and emotionally healing in the wake of a loss, a woman will be questioned about the burial or cremation of the remains. Furthermore, the new law creates significant financial burdens that may hinder your provider’s ability to provide care to you and others.
Proponents of this law tried to make a case for protecting the rights of the disabled, but there is no protection here. There is no support for families or additional services for the disabled. There is only persecution, shame, and a continued infringement on constitutional rights. Bringing a baby with profound disabilities into a family who would not choose that life for their child or cannot afford appropriate care is not “pro-life” or pro-family.
Earlier this week, the US District Court heard the case for a preliminary injunction filed by the ACLU on behalf of Planned Parenthood. As medical professionals, it is our hope that this will delay the enactment of HEA 1337. It would allow women to continue to get the legal and safe care that they need, more families to grow in a loving and prepared manner, and more physicians to care for patients the way they were trained. The government has no business legislating the choices of women about their own health care.
And no one should trump a mother’s choice about her own family.
Katherine McHugh, MD
Velvet G. Miller, PhD
John Stutsman, MD
Brownsyne Tucker-Edmonds, MD
On March 24, 2016, Governor Mike Pence signed into law HEA 1337, making Indiana the most dangerous place for a woman to be pregnant in the country. The bill was created as a ploy to garner conservative votes by state legislators up for re-election without any regard for the impact on the women and families in our state. While many hoped that the Governor would veto the bill, with its clearly unconstitutional basis and intrusion on the patient-physician relationship, he, too, is up for re-election. And so it was signed into law, due to go into effect on July 1, 2016.