MILLER: Hoosier leaders attack reproductive freedom, again

February 6, 2016

Reproductive freedom is again under attack in Indiana.

Last month, state Sens. Jim Banks and Scott Schneider introduced Senate Bill 144, called the “Indiana Heartbeat Act.” The bill prohibits physicians from performing an abortion if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. Doing so would be classified as a felony.

A heartbeat can be detected in a fetus as early as six weeks. A woman might not even realize she is pregnant by that time, forcing her to go through with an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy. This is not to mention mandatory waiting periods that require women to make two separate appointments with abortion providers. For many Hoosiers, this also means several long commutes.

When bills like these arise, I try my best to acknowledge the opposing side’s view. I understand and respect why an individual would disagree with abortion. However, I wonder if anti-choice groups have considered why someone might make that choice?

It is most important to remember that no one plans to have an abortion. Abortion is not something anyone wants to do. It is at times medically, financially or psychologically necessary.

It is not an easy decision or one made lightly. Despite the difficulty, many women deem abortion as the best choice for them and their bodies. As they understand their personal situation better than anyone, we ought to respect their choice.

This is not the first (or, unfortunately, last) attempt by the General Assembly to curb abortion access in Indiana. The Legislature has passed many unnecessary regulations and cut funding for Planned Parenthood, forcing some clinics to close. This action has often been linked to last year’s HIV outbreak.

Gov. Pence and the House Republican caucus called for a full investigation into Planned Parenthood after a smear campaign released misleading videos last summer. Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing, while those who created the videos have been indicted.

North Dakota is the only state to pass a Heartbeat Act, but it was ruled unconstitutional in federal court for violating Roe v. Wade. Yet, our Legislature is still taking these extreme actions. The animosity toward Planned Parenthood and abortion providers continues.

Banks stated that this bill would “continue the decline of abortions performed in Indiana.” I support this idea but do not agree that restricting abortion access is an effective strategy. Banks’ bill will only decrease legally performed abortions. Abortions occurred before Roe v. Wade, but they were often dangerous and unsanitary. Legal abortion provides women a safe environment to make their decision.

It is doubtful that the need for abortion could ever be completely eliminated. However, working to decrease abortions is a goal both sides share. The best way to reduce abortions is to reduce the cases of accidental pregnancy, not creating socioeconomic barriers or nearly impossible time lines for women who are already pregnant and seeking an abortion. Research has shown the most effective method is improved access to contraceptives and, particularly for teens, comprehensive sex education.

Banks stated that the Heartbeat Act prevents putting women before children, but fails to see that this bill is bad for everyone by telling women they are not qualified to make their own choices.

The senator “believe[s] it’s what women want.” I cannot speak for all women, but this woman urges Banks to stay away from reproductive freedom and focus on more pressing issues. I think a majority of women would agree.•


Miller studies policy analysis at Indiana University and works as political director for the College Democrats of Indiana. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.



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