Disability rights: Pence, HEA 1337 and Hoosier women 

Is the community this bill is framed to protect actually being protected?

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This is the fifth in our series on HEA 1337.

HEA 1337 is law in Indiana effective July 1. The wide-sweeping bill has been called the strictest abortion law in the nation. The bill outlaws abortion entirely for a variety of reasons, adds additional barriers to access, and requires each aborted or miscarried fetus be buried or cremated.

Our editorial stance is that HEA 1337 does not protect the interests of pro-choice or anti-choice women. Simply put, HEA 1337 makes Indiana the most hostile state for women’s rights in the nation. 

We examined the impact of HEA 1337 on Hoosier women from a variety of angles beginning Friday, March 25. We're continuing to examine the impact of the new law and publish women's stories of abortion and miscarriage. 

Related: How will undocumented women be impacted?

HEA 1337 and bills like it are framed to protect the disabled community, with provisions like the state not allowing a fetus to be aborted “solely because of the fetus's race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability.”

What reads as a protection against discrimination can carry a heavy load: how those reasons could impact the mother.

According to Leslie Ashburn-Nardo Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at IUPUI and researcher on stereotypes and social impact, “the law, as it’s proposed, seems not to help the people that it’s reported to help. The law has been framed apparently … to protect the disability community. Ashburn-Nardo’s argument [referring to research done by her colleague and collaborator Dr. Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds] is that actually high risk pregnancies that would have genetic abnormalities would be at highest risk to the patient’s health. So who is it really protecting?” The same women who are at a higher risk to have a child with birth defects are also at risk for complications during pregnancy.

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Related: Senator Becker's attempt to add services for disabled children to SB 313 (now HEA 1337) fails

Patricia Rogan, Ph.D., a professor of special education at IUPUI, understands the desire to protect the disabled community, but for her it’s a double-edged sword.

“Certainly in the disability community, as with our larger society there is a division between pro-life and a pro-choice stance,” says Rogan. “Specifically, you can take it right to the community of individuals who experience Down syndrome and their families. That division is very real.

“On one hand as we progress as a society in the United States, certainly we want to promote the value of the lives of people who happen to experience disability — that is very much part of the human existence … We need to continue to realize the skills and abilities and potentials of each and every individual in our society,” says Rogan. “In that regard, of course as a society and as a state we want to promote the abilities of people and to continue to know as a society that’s part of our rich fabric and rich diversity we have to do a better job of universally designing places and activities and places and learning so all people benefit.

“All people have access,” says Rogan. “It’s the realization of all of our legislation the Americans with Disabilities Act, IDEA and more. So that’s one side of the coin. If that is any way shape or form a sidebar effort of this legislation — to help elevate that awareness and realization that of course all lives matter. That is certainly in line with disability rights stance.

“On the flip side, our government really cannot legislate morality or especially choice pertaining to women’s health and women’s rights, women’s reproductive rights. Immediately that legislation goes to the heart of Roe v. Wade and infringing on that … You always wonder, ‘What was the driving intent behind this?’ ”

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We collected personal stories from women who chose abortion or experienced miscarriage and asked them how HEA 1337 would have impacted their experience. All stories with names attached are published with explicit permission. We want to thank the women who submitted their stories. In the next few days, we'll publish those stories. If you'd like, you can submit your own at awakeforwomensrights.tumblr.com or email it to NUVO's editors at womensrights@nuvo.net. 

"In my youth, I had several miscarriages. Each time i wasn't even aware that i was pregnant, until I miscarried. If I hadn't gone to the hospital, I would have died each time. It was extremely rough on me physically and mentally. With this law in place, many women experiencing what I did will not go to the hospital, and they will die."

— Anonymous

"I have a condition that puts me at a high risk for miscarriage, stillbirth & pregnancy complications. It's already heartbreaking that if my husband and I are able to conceive, my pregnancy is likely to end badly. But it's even more punishment and anguish to ask me to add on the physical, financial and emotional costs of burying a miscarriage, or carrying a lifeless baby to full term, or risking my own life to satisfy lawmakers' 'morals.' As long as this is law, I won't be having a family in Indiana."

— Anonymous

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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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