Are Indiana Women’s Health Care and Indiana’s Economy in Peril?

NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part column reporting information on Indiana’s new reproductive policies.

Last week’s column reported information about economic development concerns in Montgomery County and the significant impact these policies are having on Indiana’s medical care, especially for women of child-bearing age. This week we report on business and economic repercussion by professionals in those fields.

On Wednesday, March 22, a sizable audience gathered at the Crawfordsville public library to hear three Central Indiana professionals share information about how their professions are being affected by Indiana’s 2022 passage of Senate Bill 1 in the wake of the Dobbs Decision.

The second panel speaker was Adam Burtner, Vice President for Government Affairs for the Indianapolis Area Chamber of Commerce. Chamber of Commerce organizations represent businesses and business interests in our state and across the nation. The Indy region Chamber of Commerce represents nine counties in central Indiana. The Indy Area Chamber represents 3,000 companies, most of them small to mid-sized. When Senate Bill 1 passed last August, the Indiana business community at large was alarmed.

As both Mayor Todd Barton and Adam Burtner noted, the biggest concern for all businesses is retaining and growing a work force. He explained, “When people look at issues of where to live, work, raise a family, and build a life, many things are considered.” Here in Indiana, we have long assumed that our favorable tax climate (which we are noted for) will bring people. Burtner noted that “a favorable tax climate is no longer the most important issue for businesses nor for people in general.” Quality of life issues now top the list and quality of life indexes rate sound, available health care for all family members as a top priority.

In addition to this new concern about attracting and retaining businesses, Burtner reminded the audience that Indiana already has a brain drain problem: too many of our young people leave the state to build their lives elsewhere.

The passage of SB 1, making nearly all abortion care illegal, has sent a shockwave through Indiana’s healthcare system. As in all states, health care providers constitute a major part of a state’s business. Burtner explained that even though abortion restrictions are actually not in force in Indiana now, the fact that SB 1 passed created a problem: even though SB 1’s legality is being challenged in the courts, “that is [basically] irrelevant to Chamber businesses.” The uncertainty of the situation makes it difficult for businesses to make decisions about hiring, expansion and investment.

This places Indiana in an uncomfortable position. Chamber of Commerce studies have shown that beginning in 2011, the positive perception of Indiana by people from out of state has declined. This has been an ongoing concern to business leaders who now worry about a compounding effect. Burtner reported that although abortion remains legal in Indiana, as long as SB 1 is “tied up in the courts,” not knowing what future is coming causes anxiety, confusion and inactivity in the business community.

In the past, Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana legislature have worked closely in tandem to strengthen and promote Indiana’s robust business climate. That no longer seems to be the case: when Indiana became the first state to pass a “Dobbs Decision Law” in SB 1 last August, research revealed that more than 70 percent of Americans saw more than a billion media posts linking “Indiana” and the term “abortion.”

The repercussions of that media message have sobered our business community. They rely on people everywhere to seek out Indiana as a good place to live and grow and raise a family. Burtner concluded that “the fact that our tax rate is so low can no longer be seen as key to growing the state’s economy.” Access to full, quality health care and other quality of life issues are. Along with Mayor Barton and Dr. Rouse, Burtner encouraged us to contact our state representatives and senators to express concerns you may have about this situation. A State Legislative Breakfast will be held in Crawfordsville on April 15. Register online at Cost is $10.

Dr. Joyce Burnette, a professor of economics at Wabash College, is one of many economists who look at health-related issues over the long term through cost-benefit analysis. From an economics point of view, states with an abortion ban bear long-term costs beyond the medical and business costs already mentioned.

Burnette reported that over the last 40 years (since 1980) when Roe v Wade was in effect, the number of abortions nationwide have fallen by half and have been continuing to fall steadily.

Now that new abortions bans are being put into place in states, we have to take into account others costs to public and health care systems. They include providing travel to other states for medical care, an increase in adoptions, and an increase in unwanted children.

The cost of unwanted children is particularly severe for individual families and for a state. Statistics show that mothers lose on average $9,000 annually in income; families or individuals must absorb the cost of the 24/7 care required by a young child. If child care can be provided by the family, average cost is $226/child per week. Mothers who do continue to work have 10 to 15 percent lower wages.

Economists have also done “turn-away studies” which follow cases in which a legal abortion or other pre-natal care is sought by a patient who is “turned away” because the state has a ban on abortion and the individual doesn’t qualify. (Let’s say a state’s law says abortion is legal until week 12 but the pregnant person is judged to be in week 13, so they would be “turned away.”) Turn-away people become unintentional parents. These mothers are shown to have worse physical health, increased risk of violence in the home, a higher poverty rate and more financial distress in general. Bankruptcy becomes much more likely. These are all costs the public as well as an individual must bear.

The costs to children (including siblings) in such environments is also high: they are less likely to be breastfed, have a higher probability of child abuse, have less success in school and have less schooling. As adults they face more mental health, financial and other burdens than average.

All of us want to promote our own physical, mental and economic health and that of our state. If Indiana’s SB 1 stands, who should bear the costs that professionals in the field are deeply concerned about? How should we go forward to assure the best outcomes possible in this climate of risk and potential peril?

Contact your legislators and let them know what you think. As a resident of Montgomery County, what is important to your health and well being? We are all in this together and we need talk to one another and to our lawmakers to face these issues so we can move forward.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government. For information about the League, visit the website; or, visit the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, Indiana Facebook page.