A bad decision was made this week at the Indiana Statehouse. The outcome of the debate is a source of disappointment and shame for me as a Hoosier. But the failure of our process this time is less about what was decided, and more about who did the deciding.
The Indiana General Assembly passed an abortion bill this week. And while those engaged in pro-choice and pro-life organizations could debate the entirety of the bill at length, the most controversial aspects of House Bill 1337 is what we are discussing here. The bill was authored by Rep. Casey Cox (R-Fort Wayne). Rep. Cox is a man, and I will explain why that matters shortly.
In its final form, the bill prohibits a person from performing an abortion if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because of the fetus’ race, color, national origin, ancestry or sex. It further prohibits a person from performing an abortion if the sole reason is a diagnosis or potential diagnosis that the fetus will have Down syndrome or other disability. This was controversial language contained in Senate Bill 313, but was added to House Bill 1337 in the second half of the session. Senate Bill 313 was authored by Senator Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne). Pro-life issues are her top priority in her first term in the Indiana Senate, and presumably in her current campaign for Congress.
Both legislators are from Fort Wayne.
It should not surprise any of my readers that I am pro-choice. While I hate the thought of any woman choosing abortion, I don’t think the government should make that decision for her. But for purposes of today’s column, never have a I seen a more outrageous example of why the government should stay out of every woman’s body than on House Bill 1337.
The reason for the outrage is that the bill was passed almost entirely by men.
The controversial language above passed the Senate by a margin of 35-15. The vote of the women was closer. Five voted yes, and four voted no. And while it is profoundly troubling that there are only nine women members of the Senate in the first place, I will write about that another time. Thirty of the thirty-five who supported the language were men.
Proceedings in the House unfolded differently, but ended in the same place. The final vote was 60-40. However, the women in the House voted against the measure, 17-5. Many of the seventeen detractors are pro-life, Republican legislators who insist the language simply goes too far. Fifty-five of the sixty supporters of the bill were men.
When the women of our legislature vote 21-10 against an abortion bill, then the bill should be defeated. And more importantly, the men who passed this bill should not only be listening to the women, they should be deferring to them.
Whether you look at abortion from a healthcare, religious, or freedom perspective, it is undeniable that it is a debate in real life that naturally excludes men. It is a woman’s body. Yes, for all of my pro-life readers, there also is a fetus. But nowhere in that universe does a man exist. Why then should we let a governmental unit make these decisions when eighty percent of that unit is comprised of men?
The answer is we shouldn’t.
For my conservative friends, I have never understood how pro-life positions on this topic have become part of your platform. There is nothing less conservative I can think of than supporting the government’s intrusion of a person’s body. And there is also nothing more sexist than a government of men deciding that they know what’s best for the bodies of our state’s women.
Would our outcomes be different if our legislature matched our population’s gender breakdown? Of course they would, and on a variety of issues. But when that is as obvious as it was this week, on this bill, we need to start searching our souls for ways to do better.
Rep. Cox, as a man, had no business authoring this bill. I know him and he has done good things in the legislature, but this is not one of them.
And not only does Indiana desperately need more women in our House and in our Senate, for the time being we need more men who know their place on abortion matters: behind the women.