State Rep. Rita Fleming announces retirement a week after primary election

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Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

State Rep. Dr. Rita Fleming on Monday announced that she would step down “effective immediately”—just one week after running unopposed in her district’s primary election.

“I’ve worked to be bipartisan and benefit my district and generally improve life for the people of Indiana,” Fleming, a Democrat, said in a news release. “… It’s been an honor being a state representative.”

Fleming said she wanted more time with loved ones. She hails from Jeffersonville, which borders Kentucky.

“I have 15 grandchildren, and they and the rest of my family are my priority,” Fleming said. “Legislative sessions are long up at the Statehouse in Indianapolis and it takes a lot of work to properly represent House District 71. It’s time for me to retire from my post as state representative and focus on my family.”

Fleming has worked as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and OB-GYN.

She was first elected to the Indiana House in 2018 and was sworn in to her role in 2019.

Many of the proposals Fleming authored over her six years as a lawmaker focused on health care, particularly for mothers and children.

Most failed to pass, since both chambers of the General Assembly maintain a Republican supermajority.

In 2022, however, Fleming successfully authored legislation to end the practice of shackling pregnant inmates while giving birth. House Enrolled Act 1294 also directed correctional facilities to use the “least restrictive restraints necessary” on inmates in the second and third trimesters.

And in most recent 2024 session, she led the charge to require hospitals to stock and offer subdermal implants, a type of long-acting reversible contraceptive, and offer them to women on Medicaid after childbirth.

But that effort led to bitter division between lawmakers. Senate Democrats split from their House colleagues, arguing the removal of intrauterine devices, or IUDs, from the bill was a concession to anti-abortion sentiment. Some Republicans, on the other hand, suggested the bill preyed on impoverished women and wrongly described IUDs as abortifacients.

House Bill 1426 passed the House with wide margins, then squeaked through the Senate on a 30-18 vote. The House easily agreed to the Senate’s changes, and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the legislation into law.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta commended Fleming for her “spirit of bipartisanship and pragmatism.”

“Much of her authored and co-authored laws all have one unifying principle in common: making pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood healthier and more dignified for Hoosier women,” GioaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said in a statement. “As a retired physician with decades of experience under her belt, Rita’s empathy, care and firsthand insights helped her improve Indiana’s public health and health care policy.”

The Indiana Democratic Party will hold caucuses to fill the office and ballot vacancies once Fleming leaves.

Party insiders will select a Hoosier to serve out the rest of her current term and will pick whose name goes on the general election ballot in November.

Fleming, meanwhile, outlined her future plans.

“This summer, I look forward to spending time with my grandchildren, growing an excellent vegetable garden and volunteering my time helping third graders learn to read,” she said. “Thank you, Clarksville, Jeffersonville and New Albany, for placing your trust in me.”

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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