The vote on abortion in Kansas on Tuesday showed us all how deeply unpopular abortion bans are, even in a deep red state. Indiana Republicans were already too far along. There was no turning back. So, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. They turned what had been a somewhat deliberative process into a sprint:
Aug 3 – news of the resounding defeat of the Kansas abortion amendment hits; then:
Aug 4 – Indiana House flies through 86 second reading amendments;
Aug 5 – Indiana House passes legislation on third reading;
Aug 5 – Indiana Senate concurs in House amendments;
August 5th, a Friday night in the middle of summer at 11 p.m. at night, Gov. Holcomb enacts the abortion ban.
Abortion clinics are to be outlawed. First trimester abortions, both surgical and via medication, will be illegal except in rare circumstances involving rape, incest, or where necessary to prevent “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” If they miss the 10 week window, the state government will require the raped woman to carry their rapist’s fetus. Performing an unlawful abortion requires revocation of a doctor’s license and would likely make him or her a felon, so most probably won’t take the chance if the woman might recover somewhat some day. And serious psychological or emotional impairments don’t count under Indiana law.
This is good news for people who believe that developing life is ensouled upon fertilization; and for those who believe that women engaging in sexual activity for its own sake is unseemly or immoral and should come with life changing and potentially life threatening consequences. For those who were comfortable with the status quo of reproductive rights where 99% of abortions were conducted during the first trimester and, therefore, protected by Roe, this is a massive sea change and likely to be deeply unpopular. According to the Indiana Pregnancy Termination Report, between 7,000 and 8,000 Hoosier women receive abortions each year. This is as compared to something like 80,000 births. That means, while reproductive rights were protected, something like 8-9% of pregnancies were terminated by the mother. Some number of these were rapes, incest, or necessary to prevent death or serious physical impairment, and a greater number will have the resources to travel to Chicago. But a great number of poor and/or unlucky Hoosier women will be denied the first trimester pregnancy abortion they would have otherwise chosen and will suffer as a result. Women will die because of this.
Additionally, this will likely have a significant economic impact. As unpopular as government criminalization of reproductive freedom is among the rank and file of a place like Kansas, one suspects it is an order of magnitude more unpopular among the types of people who choose where to locate major business operations — particularly ones featuring the good managerial jobs where they and their families might have to live. It identifies the state as one where the government does not fully respect a woman’s autonomy and holds retrograde attitudes about gender and sexuality. Certainly, this sort of thing will make my kids less likely to settle down here. After the community and the state have expended considerable resources on their education, they — or at least many like them — will take the fruits of that education to a more forward looking state. Plenty of people who sneer at the value of education as compared to “common sense” will no doubt say “good riddance.” But, this is another step back for Indiana.
As I noted in my bicentennial series, at the time of its first centennial, Indiana was a powerhouse: “By the time of its centennial in 1916, Indiana was understandably proud of its accomplishments. In many ways, the ambitions of those first Hoosiers had been realized. Indiana had carved its way out of the wilderness and risen to prominence as an important part of what was becoming the most powerful nation on the planet.” We were producing world-renowned authors, booming business concerns, and politicians of national prominence. As of our recent bicentennial, our star had faded. Anecdotally, in recent years, I’ve felt like there were signs of renewed vigor; but this will undoubtedly knock us back on our heels. Particularly if those theocrats in the General Assembly who feel like this bill does not go far enough in restricting reproductive rights are permitted to go further with additional abortion restrictions, more restrictions on birth control, backtracking on same sex marriage, and stoking panic over the presence of transgender Hoosiers. I feel like this sort of thing is not popular among most Hoosiers. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is their state, and I just live in it. But, I’ve raised 6th generation Hoosiers, so I feel like I have a big stake in this place. As Mr. Cockburn sang, “you gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight,” and as Joe Hill said, “don’t mourn, organize.”
So, here we are. Where are we going to go now?