Summers: Indiana’s abortion ban threatens the lives of Hoosier women

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Today, Senate Bill 1 takes effect, making abortion essentially banned in the state of Indiana. This legislation is bad enough on the surface; any limitation on a person's bodily autonomy is reprehensible. However, when we look at the data, we find this bill isn't just a limitation on a woman's ability to control her own body, but also a piece of legislation that will have deadly consequences for Hoosier women.

During the special session earlier this summer – where state Republicans overrode 50 years of precedent in just two weeks – we heard from countless doctors and health care professionals about their reservations regarding an abortion ban. One OB-GYN student indicated she and many of her classmates were prepared to leave Indiana if the ban were to pass. We heard from women who went through the heartbreaking experience of losing a wanted pregnancy whose health and lives were saved by access to abortion services. Pregnancy – whether planned, wanted, or not – is a serious medical condition that can lead to long-term health complications and death.

In Indiana, unfortunately, women have a greater risk of dying from pregnancy complications than women living in the Gaza Strip. Our state has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, and Black women are three times more likely than white women in Indiana to die during or within the year following childbirth. In 2018, for example, the State Department of Health found African American women made up 18% of maternal deaths that year, despite representing just 13% of births. Statistics show that abortion bans raise the national maternal mortality rate, and like many facets of our national health care systems, Black women are again disproportionally impacted. Infection, severe high blood pressure and other complications can sometimes make abortion the best option to save the life of the mother. Making sure abortion remains safe and legal is also ensuring that women have access to potentially life-saving medical treatment if they should need it.

Unfortunately, Senate Bill 1 offers very little guidance on what qualifies as “saving the life of the mother.” Doctors who testified shared their concerns that the law enacted today is too narrow, and many health care professionals may delay or deny abortion care if they believed it could threaten their medical license. The lives of women should never be at the mercy of the Indiana General Assembly.

In the months and years ahead, there's no doubt in my mind that we will hear horror stories from women and doctors because of this cruel law. We'll hear of women who died of infection because they couldn't access a timely abortion following a miscarriage. We'll hear from women who were turned away from hospitals until they were “sick enough” to qualify for an abortion. We'll also hear about women who were left infertile – or lost their lives – trying to access a back alley abortion, because the statistics are clear: abortion bans don't prevent abortions, they prevent safe abortions.

How many women are we willing to sacrifice under the guise of protecting life? How many children will have to grow up without a mother because of the law pushed through by Indiana Republicans? How many doctors will our state lose because of this draconian law that takes effect today?

While we in the Democratic Party continue to fight for a woman's right to choose, I call on every Indiana resident to stay engaged with and aware of the fights taking place in the Statehouse. Today is a sad day in our state's history, but with enough Hoosiers banding together to fight for what's right, we can undo the damage done by Senate Bill 1 and create a more equitable, safe state for all Hoosiers.

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