Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Betty Cockrum

“A real victory won’t come until we see legislation passed that actually protects women’s health.” — PPI Executive Director Betty Cockrum

While the majority of Indiana residents favor comprehensive sex education, accessible health care and the use of contraception and condoms, it seems that the majority of Indiana lawmakers don’t. Every year, dozens of pieces of legislation are introduced aiming to curtail sexual education and reproductive choice. Without the incessant and effective grass-roots lobbying efforts of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, many of these bills would become law and the repercussions for all Hoosiers would be substantial.

“A real victory won’t come until we see legislation passed that actually protects women’s health,” says PPI Executive Director Betty Cockrum, a week after the 2006 General Assembly session ended last month. “But I’ve got to tell you,” she says with a grin, “it sure feels like we won the battle this year!”

Nearly 15 different anti-reproductive health bills came up during the past session, including the same abortion ban that became law in South Dakota recently. But not one of them passed — the first time in recent memory that women did not lose reproductive health rights or medical providers were not further constrained in providing reproductive health care as a result of the Indiana General Assembly.

The temporary victory came in large part as a result of the Planned Parenthood Action Network, the group’s Internet-based advocacy system, which uses e-mail to contact supporters during the legislative session, keeping them updated on bills affecting reproductive rights and giving them a direct link to their legislators. The Action Network has roughly 6,000 members statewide, who are also connected to Planned Parenthood’s national Action Network. Activists sent thousands of e-mails during the 2006 legislative session letting state legislators know where they stand on proposed bills affecting reproductive health.

“This really is a grass-roots organization,” Cockrum says proudly. “From the individuals who get up every morning to make sure our clinics are open, to the doctors and nurses who see the patients, to the people we have working at the Statehouse, to the thousands of people on our Action Network.”

Until Indiana lawmakers figure out how to do the will of the people, it seems Hoosiers will have to continue to rely on the dedication and work of groups like Planned Parenthood to protect women’s rights. Thankfully, Cockrum and her staff aren’t too battle weary to continue the fight.

“These same bills will be back next year,” Cockrum says with a tired, but earnest, smile. “But so will we.”

— Laura McPhee

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