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Summers: Indiana isn’t prepared for influx of children

IBLC, News & Media

INDIANAPOLIS - State Representative Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis) today released the following guest column to Indiana news media:

With a special session to discuss abortion rights in Indiana, our state is in no way prepared to handle the influx of children that we'll face if Republicans get their way and ban abortions.

Beyond the horrific fact that Indiana ranks third in the nation for the highest rates of maternal mortality, Indiana does not have the social infrastructure to support the needs of the children and new mothers we will have if abortion is restricted.

My Republican colleagues have spoken –albeit not extensively – about expanding resources for mothers and children while simultaneously looking to strip women of their bodily autonomy. While we're in agreement that we need to drastically improve conditions and funding for early childhood, the Indiana Republican Party seems to have a more optimistic view of where we currently stand than the statistics actually show. Their unwarranted optimism is evident by the fact that they have rejected every proposal the House Democratic Caucus has put forward to improve the welfare of children in this state.

Let's take a look at the statistics.

Indiana currently ranks 15th in the nation for the number of children living in the state. Unfortunately, 15.2% of the children in Indiana live in poverty, with Indiana ranking 23rd in the nation for rates of childhood poverty. Indiana ranks 29th nationally for child well-being.

Not only do we already have too many Hoosier children living in poverty, but an abortion ban is likely to force more women into poverty.

A study from the California at San Francisco found that women turned away from abortion clinics were three times more likely to be living below the poverty line two years later than women who were able to access abortion services. Seventy-six percent of the women denied an abortion ended up on unemployment benefits, compared to 44% of the women who had abortions. Further, a study from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that women at all income levels earn less when they have children, and low-wage workers are the most effected.

If Indiana Republicans want to force women to have children, they damn well better be able to offer actual economic support and not just the lip service that we're used to from them. We're just a few weeks out from special session, and we still don't know their planned proposals for abortion. Improving child welfare in this state will be an uphill battle, and we need to start working right now. House Democrats were ready to get to work on July 6 – when Gov. Eric Holcomb initially called us in – and we've heard nothing but crickets from the other side of the aisle.

Since we don't have a plan from Indiana Republicans, we can only assume they'll push for what the anti-choice crowd has been saying for the past 50 years. For starters: “adoption is always an option.”

In Indiana, there are roughly 26,900 children living in foster care, far outnumbering the people actively looking to adopt a child. We rank second in the Midwest for the number of children living in foster care.  It is absurd to think that, if abortion is banned in Indiana, that the number of children being put up for adoption and into foster care won't drastically increase. It's worth mentioning that Indiana currently ranks 29th in the nation for child well-being. When we lack the resources – and apparently the political will – to take care of the children already living here, what makes Hoosier Republicans think we're in any position to restrict family-planning options and abortion services? A study from the University of Colorado Boulder found that a total nationwide abortion ban would increase the rates of pregnancy-related deaths by 21%, including a 33% increase among Black women. In Indiana, where we have one of the highest rates of maternal mortality that is killing Black women at two and a half times the nation rate, how can we afford any legislation that could put Hoosier women at an even greater risk of death? Restrictions on abortion are both a grave financial miscalculation and a moral failure.

Heading into special session, I will work with my colleagues in the Indiana House Democratic Caucus to fight for expansions in childhood funding and funding for maternal health. However, we must also fight to keep abortion safe, legal and accessible in the Hoosier state.  The lives of women and children depend on us winning that fight.

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