This is the fourth part of NUVO's coverage of 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. We've been examining the impact of the new law and publishing women's stories of abortion and miscarriage.
Points of access and women’s health have always gone hand-in-hand. These are the facts: It’s often hard to afford reproductive health care for those who are systematically oppressed due to race and class. Even those who can are often treated differently: women of color are often disproportionately encouraged to use contraception from providers and encouraged to limit their family size, and undocumented women often fear legal action from anywhere that might bring their status as a citizen into question. While it’s nearly impossible to separate institutions like race, class and sexism from one another, but the effects of access are felt in variance and often based on skin tone.
Abortions are at an all-time low since the passage of Roe v. Wade, but African American women are five times more likely to have an abortion, while Latina women are twice as likely as white women — something that is often a financial decision. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the wealth of white families is estimated to be 18 times higher than Hispanic homes and 20 times higher than African American households.
According to research by Reina Lewis and Sara Mills as presented in Feminist Postcolonial Theory, if we rewind to 1970s New York, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the deaths caused by illegal abortions happened to Black and Puerto Rican women. By the end of the same decade federal funding was slashed for abortions. Those below the poverty line could only gain access to surgical sterilizations — one of the few services still funded by the Department of Health at the time. Instead of facing the possibility of death from an illegal abortion, many opted to relinquish the potential of family.
Not only were women who are members of minority groups often forced to take on higher personal burdens, today, they are subjected to a lower quality of health care. According to Dr. Ashburn-Nardo — based on her research with Adam Hirsh, a clinical psychologist at IUPUI — the threshold for pain is often ignored when it comes to African Americans.
“In general African Americans and other underrepresented groups receive less high quality health care when it comes to pain — their pain is undertreated,” says Ashburn-Nardo.
Portions of HEA 1337 targeting providers (forced burial or cremation, for example) could result in a higher financial burden for the institution, which in the end could translate to higher costs on the front end for women.
“I think a lot of the legislation that is targeting groups that provide access publicly and at a reduced rate to folks who at a lower SES rate, folks who are less affluent and have less access to health care in general — it’s just creating one more barrier,” says Ashburn-Nardo, who studies stereotypes and presumptions based on things like race and class. “… Not everyone has a private physician that they can turn to for their health care needs. Not everyone has access to insurance that they can go get a wellness check every year.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Annette Gross' story.
HEA 1337 has been called one of the worst anti-abortion bills in the country. It has strict rules regarding the conditions under which a woman may obtain an abortion. It also would impose harsh sanctions to abortion providers if the abortion is performed on a fetus that has a lethal anomaly or a disability.
However, there is one part of this bill that really upsets me. This concerns the disposition of fetal remains. Under this bill, a woman who has suffered a miscarriage or had an abortion, will be given a form to fill out, designating how they want the fetal remains disposed of.
Since most miscarriages occur before 20 weeks, and abortions can only be performed up to 20 weeks, this seems quite insensitive. Very often a mother will have a miscarriage in the very early stages of pregnancy. She will go to the hospital for a D&C (dilation & curettage) to clear away the remaining fetal tissue. Under this law, she will then be given paperwork to decide where and how she wants to bury this fetal tissue.
In July of 1977 I was ready to give birth to my first baby. I was past the projected due date, but oftentimes it’s difficult to know exactly what the due date really is. On July 12, my water broke and I want to the hospital. When I got to the labor room, my doctor examined me. After knowing him for over 9 months, I could tell something was wrong from the look on his face. Something was not right.
After that, things happened very quickly. I was rushed into the OR and had an emergency C-section. I know a baby was delivered, but I never heard it cry. I was wheeled into the recovery room, and my doctor came in with tears streaming down his face. I said to him, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll have more children.’
I never got to see or hold my baby. My husband and I were both in shock so it never occurred to us to ask to see him (yes, it was a boy). My father made the arrangements for the funeral but I couldn’t attend since I was recovering from the C-section.
I was very fortunate — I became pregnant four months later and almost one year after I lost my first son, my second son was born. The first baby is buried in a cemetery in Warwick, Rhode Island. We moved away when my son was 3 months old, so I very seldom get to visit. I think I’ve been there only three times.
Fortunately, most women do not know what it’s like to lose and have to bury a baby. To force women to bury fetal remains is harsh and punitive. It seems that the State of Indiana wants to punish women for losing a child. Most of our legislators seem to be anti-choice, so they are trying to pass bills such as this which would make it difficult for women to obtain an abortion, and in the meantime, they would cause additional pain and suffering to women who have miscarriages.
My hope is that more women speak up and let the legislature know that we will not tolerate these continued attacks on our freedom. Until that day occurs, we are still shackled and oppressed.