Abortion restrictions loom in patriarchal Indiana
Next week, 150 Hoosier legislators, including 110 men, will convene in special session to determine the most restrictive abortion laws in state history that stand to change the lives of thousands of women.
Attorney General Todd Rokita and Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp Jr., had dominated the post-Roe era semantics leading up to the July 25 special session. Rokita fired off wild allegations against a female OB-gyn who performed a legal abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been raped, vowing he would “not relent” until finding “the truth.” IU Health said that Dr. Caitlin Bernard had followed all Indiana laws.
“It’s always shocking to me that people are surprised to hear about these stories,” Dr. Bernard said in an interview with The New York Times. “The fact that anyone would question such a story is a testament to how out of touch lawmakers and politicians are with reality.”
Bopp, who helped the National Right to Life Committee develop “model” abortion restriction legislation, told Politico on Thursday, “We don’t think, as heart wrenching as those circumstances are, we don’t think we should devalue the life of the baby because of the sins of the father.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray will play key roles in passing and signing these abortion restrictions, with Holcomb drawing back from his “no red lines” stance on what he wouldn’t sign.
All of this comes in Indiana, a patriarchal state.
We’ve never elected a female governor or U.S. senator. We’ve had one female (Jill Long Thompson) nominated by a major party for governor. We’ve had four consecutive female lieutenant governors, but none of them has mounted a serious gubernatorial campaign to date, though Lt.. Gov. Suzanne Crouch reported raising $881,000 this month and is expected to announce her candidacy after the November elections.
There has never been a major party female U.S. Senate nominee. There has never been a female House speaker or Senate president pro tempore. There has never been a female House Ways & Means chair, or a Senate Appropriations or Budget Committee chair.
When you survey the House Republican hierarchy, State Rep. Sharon Negele is deputy speaker pro tempore, Karen Engleman is assistant majority floor leader and Cindy Ziemke is assistant majority caucus chair. Rep. Wendy McNamara chairs the Courts and Criminal Code Committee. In the Senate, State Sen. Liz Brown is assistant majority floor leader (and chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee) and Glick is assistant president pro tempore. Sen. Jean Leising chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Out of the three branches of government, only Chief Justice Loretta Rush has risen to the top. Only two of the 11 congressional seats are held by women.
Indiana Republicans just replaced their secretary of state nominee from an incumbent woman Holli Sullivan with Diego Morales.
There has only been one female major party chairman, Ann DeLaney for the Democrats.
There has never been a female mayor of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Evansville or Hammond. We’ve witnessed a series of one-term female mayorships in Columbus, Elkhart, Muncie and Terre Haute.
Additionally, women are missing in action when it comes to Indiana media and opinion leaders. There are no regularly published female political columnists operating in the state.
When it comes to abortion restrictions, there are three camps emerging: The first is Senate establishment Republicans who unveiled SB1 and 2 on Wednesday proposing an abortion ban once a fetus attaches to a uterus with the traditional trinity of carve outs (rape, incest, and life of the mother). The second is the more radical pro-life movement, who are pushing for a total ban (Indiana Right to Life is calling SB1 “a weak and troubling bill”). They are upset that Sen. Liz Brown was pushed out of sponsoring SB1, replaced by State Sen. Sue Glick, the former LaGrange County prosecutor who said Wednesday, “Being pro life is not about criminalizing women. It’s about preserving the dignity of life and helping mothers bring happy, healthy babies into the world.”
The third camp is Indiana Democrats, who are so weak (holding only 40 of the 150 seats) that they will have little impact, but could form an unholy alliance with pro-life radicals to thwart SB1.
LaKimba DeSadier, Indiana state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Indiana: “Today’s unveiling of the Senate’s plan to eliminate Hoosiers’ access to basic health care confirms our greatest fears: A complete ban on abortion is on its way to Indiana.”
So, in this broiler of a summer between next Monday and Aug. 14 will come one of the most contentious policy sequences in Indiana history, which will be how to restrict access to abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s scuttling of Roe v. Wade with its Dobbs decision.
To put this into historical context, think of the huge teacher rally in November 2019, or 1996 when 20,000 union activists thunderously opposed prevailing wage legislation, to the point that the marble Statehouse floors literally shook. Indiana Right to Life is calling activists to the Statehouse on Monday. Pro-choice advocates will respond.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.