This column is not about Mike Pence.
As Indiana’s sitting governor, Mike Pence remains at the center of the state’s action. Now that the latest legislative session is done, it will be his signature that will make the various bills sitting on his desk laws.
Take, for example, HB 1337, the latest attempt by Indiana legislators to deny women their constitutional right to an abortion. By prohibiting most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Indiana is already one of the most intrusive states in the nation when it comes to telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her body and well-being.
But that’s not enough for our state legislature. This year’s HB 1337 goes even further, restricting abortion based on a woman’s motives for seeking the procedure — if, for instance, her fetus has been diagnosed with a disability, she will be breaking the law for seeking an abortion for that reason.
This bill’s constitutionality is dubious. There are even some Republicans that voted against it. As Rep. Sean Eberhart, a Republican from Shelbyville said: “We just need to quit pretending we know what’s best for women and their health needs.”
Amen to that.
Nevertheless, HB 1337 is now on Mike Pence’s desk. And guess what? He is expected to sign it. In so doing Pence will put yet another brick in the wall signifying to the rest of the nation, and the world, that Indiana is a welcoming state — so long as everyone acts the same.
But like I said, this column is not about Mike Pence.
This column really needs to be about the man who would take Mike Pence’s place: John Gregg.
John Gregg came close to beating Mike Pence in the last election. That’s because while Republican redistricting has given their party an outsize advantage in districts throughout the state, most voters live in cities, which tend to vote Democratic. This gives Democrats a chance in statewide elections; it’s why Joe Donnelly was able to win a U.S. Senate seat. As the Star’s Matt Tully has pointed out, if Gregg had run as well as Donnelly did in Marion, Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson Counties, he would have beaten Pence.
But Gregg didn’t win in the Indy metro area because his campaign made it seem like cities don’t matter in Indiana. His version of the state suggested that Hoosiers are a bunch of cracker barrel sitting, checkers playing extras from a lost episode of the Andy Griffith Show.
Gregg’s unwillingness to embrace an urban sensibility and the issues that come with it: civil rights for all Hoosiers, putting us on a path to clean energy, a responsible approach to gun rights, a long term strategy for infrastructure needs, and, yes, support for women’s health crippled his candidacy in the last election.
He’s making positive-seeming noises about some of these things now — RFRA, in particular. But then Pence has made that an easy get.
Indiana’s future is urban. If John Gregg gets that, this election could be interesting. If not, I’ll be writing about Mike Pence for a long time to come.