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A history of attacks on reproductive rights: Holcomb in perspective

Governor Holcomb signed an executive order Monday, March 30, halting all “non-essential elective surgery and medical and surgical procedures,” including at abortion clinics. Initially, the governor’s press security confirmed that this included abortions. The order came on the heels of a right-wing campaign to pressure Indiana and nearby states to utilize the pandemic to attack reproductive rights, and his overall reactionary history.

Already, several groups, including ANSWER Indiana, have issued a joint statement and initiated a call-in campaign against the move. On Tuesday, March 31, the office was flooded with calls. Planned Parenthood has courageously stated that they will continue providing abortions.

When Holcomb was later asked directly to clarify if this referred to abortions, he repeated the words of the executive order, and stated that, “in every case I would leave up to the doctor to determine and decide, any and all medical expertise and PPE first needs to go toward, during this window.”

He may be backtracking in the face of organized public pressure and potential legal action.

The governor claims that this order is to ensure that medical personnel dealing with overcrowded hospitals have the supplies they need to handle the pandemic. But the self-described “pro-life” politician has a long history of trampling reproductive freedoms; this despicable act is only the latest attempt.

  • 2017: Holcomb signed a bill removing the option for minors seeking an abortion to petition the state to waive the requirement for parental consent. The bill was blocked by a federal judge, but the state appealed, wasting taxpayer dollars on a bill which was again blocked by a federal appeals court last year.
  • 2018: Holcomb stayed true to his misogynistic roots by signing a bill mandating that healthcare providers determine whether their patients had recently had an abortion, and report to the state any abortion-related complications they uncovered. This was blocked by a federal judge.
  • 2019: Holcomb, at this point seemingly eager to waste tax dollars on doomed legal battles, signed a bill banning the safest and most common form of second-trimester abortion. The legislation was blocked by a federal judge—Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill expressed his intent to appeal the ruling.

If all that wasn’t enough, an anti-abortion bill signed in 2016 by former Governor Mike Pence spurred a legal battle which made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The case was settled last year, and this February it was announced that Hoosiers would be on the hook for the $182,000 in legal fees the state of Indiana was ordered to pay out to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

Twenty percent of children in Indiana live in poverty, a number worse than 30 other states. The numbers are even worse for Black children, who are three times more likely to live in poverty than white children. Instead of putting resources into helping families stay afloat, Indiana has paid out nearly $3 million defending doomed, misogynistic anti-abortion laws since 2011.

With these numbers in mind, there is no justification for this reprehensible action, which endangers Hoosier lives for the sake of Holcomb’s right-wing political agenda in this time of global crisis. Abortions are essential and extremely time sensitive, as acknowledged by federal judges in other states who have already blocked similar measures. Holcomb’s order signals that he would rather waste time and public money in court than fight COVID-19.

If Governor Holcomb cared at all about the lives of medical personnel and other working-class people, he would take firm, decisive action to slow the spread of COVID-19. He would expand the state’s Medicaid program, release our incarcerated neighbors, and enact a total waiver on rent for the duration of the pandemic. But when people sit houseless in the streets with 4,000 empty homes in Indianapolis and people scramble to find affordable childcare, it is clear that Governor Holcomb doesn’t care about the effect of the virus. What he cares about, instead, is attacking our reproductive rights and protecting private property. 

Hoosiers have already laid out a roadmap showing Indiana officials how to actually address the people’s needs during this unprecedented crisis. Add your voice to theirs by signing our joint petition urging Governor Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett to take action to protect Hoosiers. And when you’re finished, make sure you call Governor Holcomb and express your dissent!

Abortion is essential healthcare!