Karen Celestino-Horseman: Indiana’s abortion fight is far from over

Karen Celestino-HorsemanA June Gallup Poll showed that 61% of women surveyed nationwide are pro-choice.

Those words—“pro choice”—have a particular historical meaning for women. Up until the last 150 years, women had few choices as their primary role involved childbearing, childrearing and maintaining the home. Religious beliefs promoted sex as being solely for the purpose of procreation, and if a woman did not want to become pregnant, she should not engage in sex. This ignored the fact that if a man wanted to have sex with his wife, his daughter or any other woman, there was little she could do to stop him. Pregnancy became an inevitability. With no control over their bodies, women had little control over their lives.

Only recently have the rights of women been more fully recognized. In 1960, the birth control pill became available. But it was not until 1965 that the Supreme Court held that states were prohibited from barring access to the pill for married women and in 1972 for single women. Complete freedom over procreative decisions was finally given to women in 1973 with the decision in Roe v. Wade.

This history provides some insight into why you hear women chanting, “my body, my choice,” because that choice represents far more than a medical decision. It represents the course of a woman’s life—how her future will unfold. Compulsory pregnancy and forced birth take women back to the dark times when women did not have a choice.

Most Indiana legislators seek to mandate pregnancy because they believe life begins at conception and their source for this notion is God. Well, here is what I believe: Their God has no place or voice in the Indiana Legislature. I did not vote for their God to represent me, and it is certainly not what I believe my God requires. And their constant references to and reliance upon God ignore not only me and others like me but those whose faiths do not involve a Christian God.

Medical professionals strongly testified against the law because it interferes with their ability to do their job. Testimony from women abused as children and others who were raped as adults demonstrates the need for abortion access to assure the mental and/or physical health of these victims. Due to a health condition resulting in early puberty, pregnancy in children as young as 5 has been recorded, but unless that child manages to explain to a caretaker that she might be pregnant within a limited number of weeks, Indiana declares she will undergo compulsory pregnancy and forced birth.

At the same time legislators want to impose compulsory pregnancy and forced birth upon girls, Indiana schools are not required to educate students regarding the sex acts that can lead to pregnancy. At the same time legislators claim they are interested in promoting life, they do nothing to limit the purchase and use of automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. And while legislators claim they are for religious freedom, they impose their religious belief as to when life begins upon everyone.

There will be legal challenges. The question remains whether the Indiana Constitution promises a right to privacy and if so, whether that right includes deciding to terminate a pregnancy. The Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution promises protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights but the question remains unanswered as to whether it includes a woman’s right to choose.

The bottom line is that this fight is far from over. And let’s not forget, while the fight continues, there will be elections.

In total, 90 Republican legislators voted to ban abortion, of which only 13 were women and none of color. No Democrat voted in support of the bill.•

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Celestino-Horseman is an Indianapolis attorney. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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6 thoughts on “Karen Celestino-Horseman: Indiana’s abortion fight is far from over

  1. I wonder what would be the result if Indiana put the abortion question on the ballot as Kansas did. IN will not do so, because the conservative dominated legislature is afraid the result would go against their controlling interests.

    1. I think most of the males in the Indiana State Legislature would have a different attitude were their daughters or granddaughters impregnated (especially if they were not adults) by anyone, including themselves) or their wives (surprise! surprise!) were to become pregnant because of an affair (because their husbands were too busy sticking their noses into others’ lives where they don’t belong). You’d find said males signing onto Google rather quickly and using this search criteria: [ where is the nearest legal abortion clinic from my location ] (And you can change the “my location” to a city & state just to experiment with).

  2. Quote: Religious beliefs promoted sex as being solely for the purpose of procreation, and if a woman did not want to become pregnant, she should not engage in sex.

    What do “religious beliefs” have to do with it, Ms. Whatever-Your-Hyphenated-Name is today? Isn’t the underlying fact of the matter still true?

    And more from your writing: At the same time, legislators want to impose compulsory pregnancy and forced birth upon girls.

    Really? Where in the bill does it say legislators want to impose compulsory pregnancy on girls? That would be rape and try as you might, I see nothing in the bill that orders rapes.

    1. Bob! You hit the nail on the head! It is our ultra-conservative legislators, with THEIR religious beliefs that sex is only about pro-creation and that life begins at conception you should be talking to. They are only representing themselves when they bring that to the table.

      And without CHOICESThis is a medical issue and the legislature has no business ‘governing’ my medical choices.

    2. And without CHOICES, the only option is to give birth if your birth control fails.

      Abortion is a medical issue that should remain between a woman and her physician. No with our legislators.

    3. @JM R.

      As far as religious beliefs go, they probably don’t go as far as some would like them to. I remember reading an article in a historical magazine quite a few years ago (70s? early 80s?) when someone took the time to start assembling family trees using various legal documents and birth+death dates on tombstones, even starting with Pilgrims & working forward…the number of people who were (as the European royalty used to say) “conceived on the wrong side of the sheets” (which was the reason Diana was formally known as “Diana, Princess of Wales”, and not “Princess Diana”) was incredibly significant, sometimes bordering on 25%-40%.

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