As the Legislature prepares to consider further restrictions on abortion, our hope is that lawmakers and the public at large can conduct themselves in a respectful manner that allows for open debate and negotiation.
The process in Indiana has been largely closed in the four weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and gave decisions about how to regulate abortions to the states.
The Republican majorities in the Indiana House and Senate have met in private caucus to try to come to some agreement on proposed restrictions. Republican leaders have privately polled their members about what approach to take.
Finally, on Wednesday, Senate Republicans unveiled their proposal to ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. But we’ve yet to hear from House Republicans as the Legislature prepares to convene for a special session on Monday.
Now, we’re hoping for an open, vigorous and thoughtful debate.
Granted, abortion doesn’t lend itself well to compromise, because some activists view other points of view as completely illegitimate. Passions run high. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to have a robust public debate on the issue and come to some reasonable decisions.
Surely, we can feel empathy for the 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel to Indiana late last month for legal access to an abortion, as well as for the person who is morally anguished by the more than 8,400 abortions performed in Indiana last year.
No matter a person’s position, we need to respect that his or her feelings and passions are real and not dismiss them out of hand. We need to seek first to understand, not use any means necessary to score purely political points.
The Legislature needs to show that respect by making sure adequate time and space are allowed for all sides to present their cases.
Our sincere hope is that House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray will stick to their commitment to vet bills through the full legislative process, including committee hearings and public testimony.
More than that, we hope they will take care to hold the committee hearings in a place that will adequately accommodate the array and volume of public testimony needed to explore all sides of this sensitive issue.
The Statehouse’s cramped committee rooms certainly aren’t large enough to host the debate. Thankfully, the Senate has scheduled its committee hearings for its more spacious chambers. But 0ff-site venues such as the convention center also should be explored as potential committee hearing sites to hear the concerns and questions of women, religious leaders, medical caregivers, pharmacists, businesses and anyone else who will be affected by the Legislature’s actions.
We encourage anyone with strong feelings on the issue to participate vigorously and respectfully in our democratic process, with the understanding that the Legislature can’t possibly let everyone with such a desire to testify at the public hearings.
At the same time, the Legislature should do whatever it can to make sure that the array of views on this polarizing issue are allowed to be properly represented.•
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Editor’s note: This editorial was updated from its original print version to reflect the release Wednesday of the Indiana Senate Republicans’ abortion legislation.