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Advocates: Lawmakers Using People with Disabilities as Pawns

Advocates for people with disabilities say their clients are being used as pawns in the fight against abortion. (Virginia Carter)
Advocates for people with disabilities say their clients are being used as pawns in the fight against abortion. (Virginia Carter)
March 16, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS - Legislation in Indiana would bar doctors from performing abortions for women who want them because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down Syndrome, or because of the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus. The legislation passed this session and is on the governor's desk.

Kim Dodson, executive director of Arc of Indiana, an organization that advocates for the rights of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said that normally ARC would stay out of politics. However, she said, she feels that lawmakers are using the disabled as pawns.

"That's where I really got disgusted 'cause I really felt like people with disabilities were being exploited and used to move forward an organization's political agenda," she said, "not based on facts, but because they want to let this conservative religious values in the Legislature."

Gov. Mike Pence has stressed his opposition to abortion, calling himself pro-life.

The bill also requires a woman to listen to the fetal heartbeat 18 hours before an abortion and requires that women who undergo the procedure pay for the burial or cremation of the fetus.

Abortion already is highly restricted in Indiana, said Kelly Baden, direcror of state advocacy for the Center for Reproductive Rights. She called this measure callous and outrageous, and said it's unconstitutional and won't stand up in court.

"Doctors are opposed to this. Women are opposed to this bill," she said. "I know there's been outcry even among anti-abortion women politicians in the Legislature, and really anyone who understands our constitution or believes in our constitutional right to privacy."

Indiana would become the second state with a ban on abortion because of genetic abnormalities. North Dakota lawmakers approved a similar law, but it doesn't have a practical impact because the only abortion clinic in the state does not perform such procedures. Dodson said it's a private issue that shouldn't be dictated by people with an agenda.

"Conversations occur between a doctor and a woman who is faced in that situation about what options are," she said, "and I think it needs to remain a conversation with a medical professional, not with 150 legislators who don't have experience in this area."

Dodson said lawmakers failed to put their time, energy and support toward actions that would improve the lives of Indiana's most vulnerable citizens.

The legislation is online at iga.in.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN