Last week, Gov. Mike Pence signed House Bill 1337 into law behind closed doors and sealed with a prayer. Despite yet another episode of national infamy similar to the RFRA blowback, policy analysis naming the bill unconstitutional and unenforceable and a delivered petition of nearly 6,000 signatures in opposition, the law is set to take effect on July 1.
To say the least, the bill is a world apart from the singular pieces of legislation Rep. Casey Cox, Sen. Travis Holdman, and Sen. Liz Brown authored in January. It is worth noting 21 of 31 women lawmakers and 13 Republicans joined Democrats against the bill. For context, those in favor of the bill cite religious reasons to protect the unborn from discrimination. But the legislation is so extreme and restrictive it misses the mark entirely.
If conservative lawmakers cared about the neurodiverse and disabled community, they wouldn't have reduced lived experiences to political fodder to create harmful and costly legislation that hands down penalties in place of funding, education, and support for neurodiverse and disabled people and their families. If conservative lawmakers cared about discrimination, gender identity and sexual orientation would have been added to the civil rights code by now, the anti-trans bathroom bill would have never been written in the first place, and racist assumptions about sex-selective abortions in this state would be met with evidence to the contrary. If conservative lawmakers cared about healthy Hoosiers raising healthy families in a healthy environment, they would understand abortion access is not a single-issue cause.
Few Republicans at the Statehouse know the history of the current anti-choice movement is relatively young. Just 50 years ago, Evangelical Christians were largely pro-choice or abstained from a position on the issue of abortion altogether. Institutions and faith leaders published work and spoke publicly of abortion as moral and legal, backed by scientific research and interpreted scripture distinguishing a growing fetus from a fully developed human life.
Around the same time, severely short-sighted pro-choice organizers began purposely detaching abortion access from the larger narrative of reproductive wellness in an effort to make political headway. A Supreme Court victory in Roe v. Wade primarily benefited white, wealthy, straight women and left a wide opening for the kind of anti-choice rhetoric encouraging domestic terrorism against abortion clinic workers and patients and legislation forcing clinic closures nationwide to the direct detriment of marginalized communities.
The heart of this bill is not a fight over abortion access or discrimination but an egregious obstruction of reproductive justice, a framework created by women of color with roots in women-centered practices from around the world. Reproductive justice centers queer people, poor people, and women of color and links abortion access to social issues that affect health and wellness overall, rendering single-issue anti-choice and pro-choice politics obsolete. Choosing when, if, and how to start a family in Indiana is inextricably tied to affordable housing, a healthy environment, accessible education, food security, living wages, quality healthcare, and more. The GOP-controlled House and Senate and Gov. Pence continue to ignore or exacerbate the needs of Hoosiers related to these issues.
Planned Parenthood is working with ACLU Indiana to prepare a legal challenge to HB 1337. If the law is found unconstitutional, a way forward is not a Statehouse moratorium on social issues as Gov. Pence’s opponent John Gregg proposes but educating and refocusing lawmakers and the Hoosier electorate on reproductive justice. Ideological differences on abortion are politically out of place apart from reproductive justice, when bi-partisan goals include reducing unwanted and non-viable pregnancies, fully supporting wanted pregnancies and growing families, and creating a better Indiana for all Hoosiers. Perhaps progress birthed of this politically panned legislation is exactly what Indiana needs.