Contributed by Anna Rask.
The Notre Dame “bubble” of privilege often shields students from the local lived experiences, realities, and human costs of hot-button issues on campus. The catholicity of the school lends abortion to be one of those topics, yet, as an out-of-state student myself, I have rarely heard even basic facts about reproductive healthcare in Indiana ever discussed in a school-sponsored setting. In fact, as a result of my own ignorance, I had to research reproductive healthcare access for the purposes of this post. Knowledge of important legislation and facts regarding healthcare access can help students, voters, and activists across the spectrum foster informed discussions/debates and make educated policy decisions. The below sections include some important moments, facts, and legislation around abortion and reproductive health in Indiana.
- Pregnancy and Childbirth Discrimination (SB 342): This legislation is passed committe but not yet enacted. It would allow for work accommodations (e.g. a place to sit) for pregnant and lactating employees. Currently in Indiana, particularly low-wage or physically-demanding jobs may fire or force women onto leave if they request even minor accommodations.
- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws: These laws are designed to eliminate access to safe and affordable reproductive care by establishing stringent and often medically unnecessary requirements that are not compulsory for other medical clinics.
- In Indiana, an example of a TRAP law includes SB 292, which added authorizations for clinic inspections, amended informed consent policies, and placed new requirements for hospital admitting privileges. A more recent TRAP law is the 2018 SB 340, which changed abortion law regarding clinic license applications, inspections, abortion complications, abortion inducing drugs, and state reporting, among other anti-choice provisions.
- The omnibus Abortion Bill (HEA 1210) further restricts funding, requires a forced ultrasound, and contains admitting privileges and physician contact provisions.
- Another TRAP law that was recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court is HB 1337, which requires the burial or cremation of all fetal remains, irrespective of how the pregnancy ended. This bill also requires an ultrasound 18 hours before an abortion, among other restrictions.
- Indiana Insurance Coverage for Abortion Ban (HB 1123): This law severely limits abortion coverage
- Indiana bans abortion past 22 weeks, before the viability range (24-28).
- In 2014, around 95% of Indiana counties had no abortion care clinics, and 66% of Indiana women age 15-44 lives in those counties.
- As of 2017, the state of Indiana has 9 abortion clinics.
Reproductive Care in South Bend:
- The Women’s Pavilion (the sole abortion provider in South Bend during the time period of 1978-2016) was met with backlash from its inception. Beginning with St. Joseph’s hospital (claiming the location of the clinic next to the hospital would harm its reputation), numerous anti-choice committees and organizations filed lawsuits and complaints against the clinic and its abortion provider over the years in an attempt to impede its functioning. The abortion provier Dr. Klopfer was recently discovered to have improperly stowed the remains of 2400 fetuses in his home. The city’s sole abortion clinic is now Whole Women’s Health Alliance, founded in 2018.
- Women’s Care Center is a crisis pregnancy center operating largely in Indiana as well as other locations nationally. It unsuccessfully tried to open a location next to Whole Woman’s Health Alliance when Mayor Buttigieg vetoed a rezoning bill in 2018. WCC purports to offer medical-grade pregnancy support and abortion care, yet they are not a licensed medical facility nor are they overseen by the state’s department of health. WCC also does not provide STI testing, contraceptives, nor unbiased and professional counseling. They have also been accused of harassing and lying to numerous clients.
- Before fetus burial became enshrined in the law, St. Joseph’s hospital in South Bend provided a grossly invasive “optional” burial service by the name of In God’s Arms, pushed heavily by chaplains to women that have just suffered a miscarriage. While some appreciate the ability to honor their fetus’s remains, others have felt harassed by the program’s chaplains to choose the burial service and shamed by them for opting out. You can read about local women who faced this harassment here.
- St. Joseph’s hospital’s parent company, Trinity Health, was sued for failing to provide emergency care (including abortions) to people experiencing severe pregnancy complications in accordance with federal law. The cases have since been dismissed.