Update 7/2016: HB 1337 was blocked with an injunction, which was not appealed. That means HB 1337 is no longer law.
Yesterday, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana had three options: sign, veto, or do nothing with HB 1337, one of the most vicious omnibus anti-abortion bills the United States has ever seen. The bill has piled up all the provisions anti-choice legislators have been unable to push through to date, and includes unnecessary admitting privilege requirements; requirements for people to have an ultrasound and listen for a heartbeat; confidentiality violations against youth who choose not to inform their parents about their abortion; requirements for cremation or interment; new, state-mandated “informed consent” provisions for the sole purpose of delivering inaccurate medical information; a complete ban on fetal tissue research; bans abortion based on disability, gender, race, and national origin; and requires that in the case of a “lethal fetal anomaly,” an already painful situation, the patient must receive counseling that encourages them to carry to term anyway. North Dakota is currently the only other state that bans abortion in the case of fetal anomalies.
Amidst loud outcry from medical professionals, residents, Republicans and Democrats alike, Gov. Pence signed the bill. By signing, Pence sent a loud message that pregnancy in Indiana is not protected – that any pregnant person can be jailed or forced to risk their life in childbirth. The National Network of Abortion Funds is appalled by this action and demands immediate repeal for the sake of Indiana families.
Indiana is not a safe place for pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage. It has the fourth highest rate of maternal deaths in the United States, and its early infant mortality rate is just as alarming at 7.1 percent (compared to a national average of 5.6 percent), and the disparity is 2.3 times higher between black and white infant deaths. Overall, Indiana residents have worse health outcomes than the rest of the nation, particularly among people of color. The fact that people of color are at greater risk for miscarriage puts them also at greater risk for incarceration due to feticide laws already on the books, and in fact, has already happened to Bei Bei Shuai and Purvi Patel, both Indiana residents, punishments which medical and legal experts have witnessed and decried.
Despite this dire health situation and blatantly unjust judicial process, Gov. Pence has devalued the lives and livelihoods of pregnant people by signing HB 1337 into law. Some people have responded by stating they now wish to avoid pregnancy at any cost, knowing what the consequences could be. In a recent Truthout article by Katie Klabusich, Victoria Barrett stated that she and her husband decided, “as long as this law is on the books, I will not risk another pregnancy in this state.”
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds explains, “Violations to both disability rights and abortion rights are problematic when choices don’t feel like choices at all. There is no choice when an abortion is your only option to avoid poverty, discrimination and shame. Abortion is a necessary social good for many who are not able to parent in a safe, healthy, or supportive environments. That’s why I can simultaneously hold the belief that all people should be able to control their reproductive decisions AND critique how we are forced to make those decisions in a world that does not accept or celebrate people for who they are. Worst of all, we’re living in a world that punishes and kills people for being different. ‘Choice’ doesn’t exist in a world where you’re under threat of death, extreme poverty, or imprisonment.”
Fortunately, there are places like the All–Options Pregnancy Resource Center where diaper drives go hand in hand with birth control and abortion access. They are even launching a new abortion fund called the Hoosier Fund to make abortion more accessible for people who can’t afford it, who don’t have insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover abortion care. All–Options Pregnancy Resource Center demonstrates an investment in trusting people to take care of their own bodies and families by supporting Hoosiers based on their needs. If only the Governor of Indiana had the same value of trusting and assisting people to stay healthy and safe when they decide whether or not to grow their families.
Instead, the new law establishes the unsafe and medically unsound practice of pushing pregnant people towards childbirth even when it’s unsafe. Supporters of the bill claim that it intends to promote disability justice and deter sex-selective abortion bans, but this logic relies on disproven myths and a mentality of judging those who need support.
Hernandez asks, “If we lived in a world where all people had the rights, resources, and recognition to thrive would we consider having a child with disabilities to be the same kind of ‘burden’? If the standards of ‘beauty’ weren’t so narrow and fake, would we be so concerned about having a child that does not ‘look’ or ‘behave’ like ‘most’ other people? If we had the access to mental and physical health care that families with disabilities need would we feel as ill-equipped to care for our children? If we had paid sick leave and parental leave and childcare was affordable, would we feel it was impossible to care for our children as they come and as they are?”
Any responsible legislation around abortion must maintain its availability as a safe, legal, and normal healthcare procedure. Doing so means taking into account that not all people have the resources to care for a child, or may not wish to be a parent, or may encounter any range of life situations that lead them to seek an abortion. And their ability to do so without shame, misinformation, or stipulation is a social good.
Every person considering whether or how to parent when there is a disability must navigate that complexity for themselves and their families – with complete access to all healthcare options, and without shame. Everyone should be able to decide for themselves when, whether and under what circumstances they become a parent.
Governor Mike Pence has failed to govern justly and has made both pregnancy and abortion in Indiana more unsafe and effectively a criminal offense. This is not just another TRAP law. This is a sweeping, invasive, and tragic misuse of the juridical system. We remind Gov. Pence and other legislators who support such nefarious restrictions that abortion is legal in the United States, and it is unlawful to impose restrictions to abortion access.
The National Network of Abortion Funds is a network of grassroots, local organizations that are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural & political change. NNAF provides technical support and infrastructure for our member funds on the ground, and runs its own abortion fund, the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund. In 2014, NNAF and member organizations received 116,000 requests, and assisted 30,000 individuals seeking $3.5 million in funding for abortions, transportation assistance, translation, and childcare.