People marched, cheered, yelled and prayed at pro-life and pro-choice rallies at the Indiana Statehouse Saturday morning.
In a 5-4 decision handed down on Friday, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court ruling that protected a women’s decision to have an abortion.
Thousands from across Indiana were drawn out to make their feelings known in the aftermath of the ruling. The majority opinion said the U.S. constitution does not establish the right to an abortion, so that right should be decided by the states.
They also gathered to show support for and against further regulations on abortion in an effort to sway Indiana lawmakers ahead of the upcoming July 6 special session.
The special session was originally called to take up Gov. Eric Holcomb’s requested taxpayer refund, but in light of the high court’s decision, lawmakers are now planning to take up new regulations on abortion as well. The Republican super-majority’s leadership has not made it clear what regulations they would like to see. Some Republican lawmakers, including Rep. John Jacob (R-Indianapolis) have said they want abortion to be criminalized. Jacob, whose term expires at the end of 2022, represents a portion of northern Johnson County.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, the ACLU of Indiana, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates and Women4Change Indiana hosted an “emergency rally.” Simultaneously, on other side of the Statehouse was the rally hosted by Right to Life of Indiana. A Stand For Life Indiana rally, which was promoted by Jacob, was also held at 2 p.m.
‘My body, my choice’
Thousands of pro-choice protestors expressed shock, anger and fear at the possibility that the right to abortion could be stripped away for Hoosier women. They thought Roe v. Wade was something they could count on and never dreamed a precedent set nearly 50 years ago could be overturned.
Pro-choice advocates vowed to keep fighting during the rally and marched to Monument Circle and Massachusetts Avenue, before circling back to the Statehouse.
LaKimba DeSadier, director of Planned Parenthood for Indiana and Kentucky, said she is overwhelmed with emotion at the decision, but will continue fighting for abortion rights. She wants women to know not all hope is lost.
“It’s hard. I’ve spoken with several folks that are out here that came up to me from the ages of 16 to 23 crying saying that they’re scared. I said ‘it’s okay to acknowledge your emotions but also understand there’s a light at the end of the tunnel’ and the light is right here at Planned Parenthood,” DeSadier said. “Call us.”
Erica Parker, an Indianapolis mother, stood with her daughter to protest for the “right to make choices with their bodies.”
“I was in a state of shock, even though it (doesn’t) directly affect me at this time, I still (feel) violated by our government. I (am) scared especially for my daughter. I want her to grow up in a country that has laws that give her rights to her own body,” Parker said.
Indianapolis resident Fana Gizaw had conversations with pro-life protesters about the meaning of “my body, my choice.”
“As an 18 year old, you know I’m dreaming of going to college and completing my dream, I’m not dreaming of becoming a mother and that is okay and if somebody else is dreaming of becoming a mother and that is okay, I’m not for abortion, I’m for my choice to choose.” Gizaw said.
Pro-choice people aren’t for killing babies, as is often asserted, they are for making sure women can make their own healthcare decisions without government intervention.
Gizaw wants lawmakers to leave religion out of the abortion debate.
“We (have) separation of church and state. You can’t use religion as a basis for your laws and your decision making,” Gizaw said. “Not everybody follows the same religion. As far as I’m concerned, America is the land of the free. You have the right to practice a religion and if you follow the belief that God says that you can’t have abortions, that’s fine. Don’t have one. But, don’t tell me that I can’t.”
At Right to Life of Indiana’s rally, a few hundred people stood together to pray and sing in joy that their work to overturn the 49-year-old decision has paid off. They also stood together to celebrate the lives of mothers and their children.
Marc Tuttle, president of Right to Life of Indiana, said pro-life advocates have taken a long journey to overturn Roe v. Wade. According to Tuttle, the court’s decision “protects and welcomes and nurtures every human being that’s born in our states,” he said.
“This has opened up an opportunity for Hoosiers to come together to be there to protect human life and to be there to support pregnant moms,” Tuttle said. “So, our first instinct is to say, honestly ‘thank you’ and rejoice for this opportunity.”
Maureen Devlin, an Indianapolis pro-life activist, said there are many resources to help pregnant women. If women look at their options, like her, they would see that abortion is not the way to go.
“It’s a lot for women. I’ve been there and it’s a scary moment. I found out I was pregnant right before I started law school. My life’s dream (was) going to law school,” Devlin said. “I had to choose. (I asked myself) ‘am I going to kill this baby, because I think my goal of going to law school is more important.’ And, you know, what I realized is I just don’t have that right.”
To Devlin, her unborn child’s life was not hers to take.
“I had an unplanned pregnancy that I really didn’t want, but that doesn’t mean I was entitled to kill,” Devlin said. “The person is now my child and he is alive, he is not me and his body is not my body.”
At the Stand for Life hundreds of protesters from the pro-choice rally stood along with the pro-life protesters. The protesters mixed and debated the decision. Amid the chants from both sides, Jacob and several others speakers spoke about their victory for life and the next steps for the special session.
Jacob advocated for the bill he co-authored with Reps. Curt Nisly (R-Milford) and Zach Payne (R-Charlestown) to get a hearing at the special session. House Bill 1282, known as the Protection of Life Bill, would establish that life begins when an egg is fertilized and make surgical and medicinal abortions a crime in Indiana.
Jacob previously told the Daily Journal his No. 1 goal for office was getting abortion banned in Indiana. After his first — and possibly only — term in office that could become a reality if Republican leadership agrees to take up his bill.
“I spent years in this Statehouse preaching, pleading with our legislators to immediately end all abortion in Indiana to pass the ‘life bill’ and over and over,” Jacob said. “(It was) not the Democrats but the Republican establishment swamp … that killed the bill in the committee.”