Guest Blog: Feminists of Hanover College Open Letter to Mike Pence

Dear Governor Pence,

We are reaching out to you as students of your alma mater, Hanover College, to urge you to stand with women and veto HB 1337. The writers of HB 1337 may claim that their intention is not to control women’s bodies, but this bill is not structured in a way that will make sure women’s autonomy and even their rights of citizenship will not be compromised. Instead it places undue burden on women seeking control over our own bodies, and provides no exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest. This is a problem, as whether or not a woman gets an abortion is not your decision to make.
It is unethical for you or any other man to make decisions about the women of Indiana’s bodies. HB 1337 was written by a man with only one female co-author and one sponsor, and passed by a general assembly that is 75% male. Meanwhile, female legislatures from both sides of the political spectrum – both Republicans and Democrats – have voiced concerns over the consequences this bill would have on women’s health. Clearly, the women of Indiana have not had a say in the making of this bill and are thus not represented by its mission. Therefore, signing HB 1337 into law would be morally outrageous, as you have no right to make this decision for us. Inaction will also be synonymous with approval, as doing nothing will allow this bill to become law. This means that you must put control back into the hands of the women of Indiana by vetoing.
We know, however, that you are reluctant to support a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. However, even from an anti-choice perspective, the provisions in this bill do nothing but place an undue risk and burden on the women of Indiana. For example, no legitimate medical reason exists to require that fetal tissue from abortions and miscarriages be disposed of by women and their providers through cremation or burial. This only serves to increase the costs of abortion and miscarriages while also adding to the stigma that these women face.
Furthermore, no conclusive evidence exists suggesting that the United States needs to take measures to prevent sex-selective abortions. While our culture has far to go in terms of achieving gender equality, the United States simply does not exhibit the same skewed sex rations found in countries where sex-selective abortion is a common practice. In fact, most abortions in the United States occur before the sex of a fetus can even be determined. Therefore, measures to end such a practice are unnecessary in Indiana, and would instead only serve to undermine women’s right to choose, as women would be burdened with proving our intentions were “legitimate” enough in the eyes of Indiana law.
Evidence of race-selective abortions is equally as inconclusive. Thus, measures to ban them are unnecessary. Instead of working to curb racism, HB 1337 would stigmatize women of color who seek abortions while requiring abortion providers to question their motives, thereby insulting our integrity and ability to make informed decisions. This provision would place an undue burden on abortion providers and women of color, whose access to abortion is already more limited than those of white women, thereby resulting in more institutionalized discrimination and defeating its own purpose. Furthermore, it is true that women of color are more likely both to experience unintended pregnancy (due to a lack of contraceptive resources) and to have an abortion. However, if the state of Indiana is truly interested in helping these women, the solution would be to increase access to contraceptives and comprehensive sexual education, not placing more restrictions on abortion. Otherwise, you are merely attempting to stifle the symptoms while ignoring the problem, thus failing Indiana’s women of color.
If putting a stop to sex and race-selective abortions is truly of concern to you instead of simply reducing women’s constitutionally affirmed right to abortion access, then the solution lies in taking legislative action that works to provide more social support to vulnerable communities such as the disabled and women experiencing unplanned pregnancy, as well as changing the harmful cultural norms and stereotypes, which undervalue women and minorities, through education and community outreach. Thus, if you choose to allow HB 1337 to pass, we will know where your true intentions lie. Doing so would clearly show that you have no interest in protecting the autonomy and rights of the women of Indiana.
Additionally, the provision of HB 1337 that calls for a ban on abortions if the fetus has any genetic abnormalities, would force women to carry pregnancies that put our health and our lives at risk. This ban would effectively strip the women of Indiana of our right to make informed decisions about our pregnancies, and potentially force us to carry to term pregnancies that are incompatible with life. This would increase the grief and financial burden of women whose pregnancy was wanted and intentional but have to choose abortion because of health concerns by forcing them to carry fetuses that will not survive outside of the womb or pregnancies that put their lives at risk to term, thus prolonging their suffering.
Once HB 1337 is thoroughly examined, it is clear that this bill does nothing but stand in the way of women’s best interests by restricting our constitutionally protected right to abortion access while willfully endangering our lives and reducing us to second-class citizens who cannot make important choices for ourselves and our families. We know that, despite the language of this law, this is exactly what it is intended to do. For that reason, we urge you to protect our right to freedom and autonomy by vetoing HB 1337. You may believe that a matter such as abortion access has no real impact on women’s rights. However, Indiana has already begun to see what happens when women’s rights are seen as secondary to those of unborn fetuses, as shown by the unjust criminalization and imprisonment of Purvi Patel. Patel’s rights to bodily autonomy were not respected, and her plight is only the beginning. No more women need to be criminalized or stigmatized for not having children, regardless of whether they do so voluntarily through abortion or involuntarily through miscarriage. We, the Feminists of Hanover College, urge you to stand with the women of Indiana and veto HB 1337.


The Feminists of Hanover College 


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