On the 46th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, supporters and opponents scheduled rallies at the Indiana Statehouse, underscoring the deep divide over the ruling that remains more than four decades later.
Advocates of reproductive rights gathered on the fourth floor of the Statehouse Tuesday to begin their push for Senate Bill 589, introduced by Sen. Jean Breaux. Dressed in dark blue t-shirts with “Hoosiers for Reproductive Freedom” printed on the front, the supporters stood a couple rows deep behind the podium, applauding the speakers. Religious leaders, a physician and women sharing their personal stories all stepped up to the podium to support Planned Parenthood, reproductive choice and SB 589.
Also marking the anniversary was Indiana Right to Life. It had several activities planned, including a mass at St. John the Evangelist and a march in downtown Indianapolis concluding with a rally on the south steps of the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon. The Right to Life rally was scheduled to take place after Indiana Lawyer deadline.
Both groups will likely be active during the legislative session. At least nine bills regarding pregnancy, contraceptives and abortion have been filed.
Outside the General Assembly, supporters and opponents across the country are watching the U.S. Supreme Court, which has relisted Indiana’s writ of certiorari for its conference on Feb. 15. The state is asking the justices to overturn an injunction blocking a state law that would restrict women’s access to abortion.
Breaux’s SB 589 states every individual has a “fundamental right” to make his or her own choices about contraception, pregnancy, adoption and abortion. It also prohibits the state from denying or interfering with those rights and specifies that a fertilized egg, embryo and fetus do not have independent rights in Indiana.
Tracey Wilkinson, an Indianapolis pediatrician, said SB 589 will replace shame and stigma with dignity and respect.
Breaux thanked Planned Parenthood for its work on the bill, and she told the crowd they will now have to start working, contacting their legislators and pushing for this measure. The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but a hearing has not been scheduled.
The Indianapolis Democrat said she has been a state senator for more than 10 years and every year her colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle introduce bills she views as eroding the right to reproductive freedom, especially access to safe and legal abortion. Through SB 589, Breaux said, she wants to ensure no Hoosier “can be criminalized for their pregnancy decision.”