Austin Deaver and Regan Nipper are planning a women’s rights demonstration on Wednesday in Anderson at Ninth and Meridian streets. John P. Cleary | The Herald Bulletin
Austin Deaver and Regan Nipper are planning a women’s rights demonstration on Wednesday in Anderson at Ninth and Meridian streets. John P. Cleary | The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Like a majority of the more than 7,000 Hoosier women who terminated a pregnancy in 2020, Austin Deaver’s great-grandmother was low-income, unwed and already had a child.

The difference is that abortion wasn’t legal in the United States in the 1940s, and Deaver’s great-grandmother, like other women of her era, terminated her pregnancy through unknown means on her own at home. Unlike some of those other women, however, she survived the experience.

“I believe she was in a society where they were not prioritizing women’s health,” he said. “My great-grandmother wasn’t one of those people who had access. She actually performed an at-home abortion because she didn’t have access to safer ways to perform it.”

The online publication Politico earlier this week reported that a leaked draft opinion of a Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito signals an intent to eliminate the protections women nationwide have had since Roe vs. Wade became law in 1972 by shifting authority on the issue of abortion to the states. Though Indiana is not one of them, several of its neighbors and others around the nation already have in place contingent legislation that would go into effect and outright ban abortion should the Supreme Court reverse Roe vs. Wade.

“This is not going to stop abortions. This is going to stop safe abortions,” Deaver said.

According to the 26-page Indiana Terminated Pregnancy Report published by the Indiana State Health Department’s Division of Vital Statistics in June 2021, 135 women from Madison County terminated their pregnancies in 2020.

Indiana law requires all terminated pregnancies to be reported to the state health department within 30 days.

Madison County does not have facilities where abortions are performed, so they took place in either one of seven standalone facilities or five hospitals around the state.

With the fate of Roe vs. Wade in the balance because of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Deaver, 26, is determined the women he knows won’t experience what his great-grandmother did. That’s why he is organizing an Anderson Women’s Rights Protest on Wednesday in front of the Madison County Government Center at intersection of Ninth and Meridian streets.

“I think this means that a lot of my friends are at risk,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to 1945 where women did not have access to health care that they need. I do know my friends deserve access to health care. My friends deserve bodily autonomy.”

Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, said though he describes himself as “prolife” because of his Christian faith, he would not have supported contingent legislation had it been introduced.

“At least for me, it would have been kind of speculative to introduce some legislation trying to anticipate what might happen,” he said. “Even at this point, a preliminary draft is preliminary. Anything could happen between now and the time it’s published. I don’t think it’s good policy to enact something on a future contingency.”

Still, Gaskill said he’s hopeful.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that five justices are apparently ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, but there is a lot of time where people potentially could change their minds,” he said. “Some of the questions the justices asked during the hearing were somewhat encouraging. But when you deal with Washington, D.C., you don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Gaskill said he also doesn’t know of any draft legislation that already may have been written by any another Indiana legislator in anticipation of a reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

“If a legislator has that, they have not made it available to all of their colleagues,” he said. “I would hope that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that puts it back into the hands of the individual states, and I would expect the Indiana Legislature to do something about that.”

However, on March 8, prior to the end of the 2022 legislative session, Gaskill, retiring Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, and Rep. Elizabeth Rowray, R-Yorktown, joined dozens of other legislators in sending a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb. The letter asked the governor to call the lawmakers into a special session if the Supreme Court were to reverse Roe vs. Wade.

“Some questions in life don’t have a perfect answer, and this is one of them,” Gaskill said, “but we have slaughtered millions of human beings since abortion became legal in Indiana.”

Even with a Republican supermajority, however, it’s far from certain what any legislation would look like because of varying views on abortion at the Statehouse. For instance, while some legislators may hold a zero tolerance ideology on abortion, Gaskill said he supports exceptions for rape or a lifeand- death decision about a mother’s health.

“I don’t think that everyone is of the exact same mind,” he said. “Not all Republicans are pro-life. There are some Republicans that don’t vote that way.”

Legislation is only part of the answer, Gaskill added. It must be coupled with thoughtful social interventions that help mothers when the men in their lives fail to take responsibility, he said.

“Being a parent gives you the opportunity to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, and I believe that brings you closer to God.”

Jaye Rogers, chair of Anderson University ’s Department of History and Political Science, who often teaches in the area of women’s studies, said a reversal of Roe v. Wade would be a huge shift in paradigm, especially for younger women who have been in control of their reproductive health. For instance, Rogers said, she knew life before Roe vs. Wade, but her daughters and granddaughters did not.

“This is a new way of thinking of how to navigate this world should a young woman find herself pregnant and unable to carry the pregnancy to term,” she said.

Though some highly contentious issues, such as prohibition, have been allowed to die following a legal reversal, Rogers said she doesn’t see that happening with abortion. In the 50 years since Roe vs. Wade has become the law of the land, women have entered the workplace in large numbers, often in fields traditionally held by men, and they have learned to advocate for themselves in situations of domestic violence. They have also gained more financial equity by having property and credit cards in their names.

“Historically when difficult decisions are made at a higher level that people are unhappy with, you see more people advocating for change and making donations. These difficult decisions do make people more aware and more active,” she said. “You also have 50 states, so I can’t see how it can go away quickly. And difficult things shouldn’t go away quickly.”
© 2022 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.