CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke
On Wednesday, the Indiana Senate advanced a measure that will impose unnecessary burdens on abortion providers, and potentially put them at risk for further harassment. But the bill didn’t pass along party lines. One Republican lawmaker refused to support it, pointing out that it doesn’t actually do anything to keep women safer.
“It does nothing to improve women’s health,” state Sen. Vaneta Becker (R) explained after casting her vote against the bill on Wednesday. “All it will do is target doctors who provide health care for women.”
The proposal would require abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals, a burdensome requirement that is intended to force them to stop practicing. A similar requirement in Texas has been wreaking havoc on abortion access, as dozens of clinics have been unable to secure these arrangements with hospitals and are therefore being forced to shut down.
Indiana’s bill is somewhat unique, however, because it includes an additional requirement related to admitting privileges. It stipulates that abortion doctors are allowed to partner with other medical professionals who have relationships with hospitals, in case that “backup doctor” needs to treat any complications or emergencies related to an abortion in a nearby hospital. But, under the bill, the identities of those “backup doctors” would be made public. Women’s health advocates have pointed out that the professionals who provide abortion care are often subject to intimidation, harassment, and threats — and requiring them to disclose their identities would simply make that worse.
“The one biggest remaining concern is the potential for the backup physicians to be named publicly,” Betty Cockrum, the president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, noted after the measure first came up for consideration last week. “We know what that means. And it’s not pretty.”
Indeed, there have been an estimated 4,700 incidents of clinic violence since 1995. Last year in Indiana specifically, one protester vandalized a Planned Parenthood clinic with an axe. Reproductive health advocates have fought for buffer zones around reproductive health facilities as way of preventing these crimes — but stalking and harassment often follows doctors home, too. At a recent hearing on Indiana’s proposed measure, a Planned Parenthood employee explained that some abortion providers have encountered protesters screaming at them outside their homes.
Targeting abortion doctors, and ultimately making it too dangerous and risky for them to continue providing this type of health care for their patients, is part of a larger anti-choice strategy. Americans United for Life, a national group that works to lay the groundwork for state-level abortion restrictions, has been explicit about this goal. The gradual efforts to make it too difficult to be an abortion doctor, and too difficult to operate an abortion clinic, are successfully cutting off women’s reproductive access at the source.
That’s the reality that Sen. Becker broke from her party to recognize: This isn’t about women’s safety. This is about going after medical professionals and threatening their very livelihoods. Nonetheless, Indiana’s bill now heads to the state’s GOP-controlled House.