Indiana General Assembly Declares War on Public Education and Women

February 23, 2013

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Under the guise of protecting women’s health and providing better education for children, the Indiana General Assembly is waging a war against public education and women.

In an effort to make terminating a pregnancy even more difficult than it already is in Indiana, the Senate Health and Provider Services committee passed SB 371 requiring that a women requesting medication to terminate an early pregnancy have an ultrasound before she takes the medication and after she takes it. Because medically induced abortions can only be performed in the very early stages of a pregnancy, a regular ultrasound will not detect the pregnancy. Hence, a trans-vaginal ultrasound would be required. This is an unnecessary and costly procedure when a simple blood or urine test would be sufficient.
This bill also requires that any clinic providing the medication must meet the same standards as clinics that offer surgical abortions. Why? This is not a surgical procedure. These requirements do not apply to private physicians who dispense the same medication. Thus, a middle or upper income woman can go to her family doctor with none of this hassle. Only low income women will face these barriers to a safe and convenient way to terminate an unwanted or problem pregnancy.

The stated intent of school vouchers is to provide a choice to low income students and their parents so that they can leave failing schools and get a better education. The present voucher law is being challenged in the Indiana Supreme Court but that doesn’t stop the General Assembly from passing more legislation to expand it. One only has to observe who is testifying in favor of the expansion of vouchers to surmise the real intent of these bills. Testifying in favor of HB 1003 was the lobbyist for the Catholic church, an evangelical church school, Catholic school administrators, parents who attested that their child was getting a better education in the private school of their choice mainly because of smaller class sizes, and, of course, the Chamber of Commerce. If public schools had the money to hire more teachers and did not have to take all of the students who come to them, they could have small class sizes too.

Nearly all of the private schools receiving voucher money in Indiana are religious schools. When the lobbyist for the Catholic church was asked by one of the legislators if a student attending their schools wanted to opt out of the religious education classes could they, he said without hesitation that the answer was no. If a student chooses to attend a Catholic school, they have to do everything required of every student at that school. Clearly, tax dollars are paying for the religious indoctrination of students. The real reason these groups are pushing for vouchers are (1) to bail out financially troubled Catholic schools (2) to allow for profit companies to make money from educating children. They don’t care about the quality of teaching or programs. Profit is the bottom line.

Watching this train wreck is infuriating. While local organizations, individuals, and some legislators speak out against these devastating bills, the majority sits there stoic and unmoved. Their minds are already made up. I have spent several hours in the past few weeks observing in person and online this fiasco. I have testified against both of these bills.

In the case of SB 371, through the HAPA (Health Access and Privacy Alliance) coalition of which CFI-Indiana is a member, a totally awesome team of speakers testified in opposition. This included doctors from the OBGYN department of Indiana University School of Medicine, two protestant ministers, the lobbyist for the local Jewish community, Indiana Religious Coalition to Support Reproductive Justice, Planned Parenthood of Indiana, League of Women Voters, Indiana NOW, and myself representing CFI-Indiana. But who do they listen to? Indiana Right to Life, American Family Instituite, Focus on the Family, and the lobbyist for the Catholic church. These legislators think that they know more about women’s bodies and health than the doctors at their own state medical school. Insane!!

On the voucher bill, every educational organization that I can think of testified against it -Indiana School Board Association, Indiana School Superintendent’s Association, Indiana State Teachers Association, Indiana Federation of Teachers, among others including me speaking on behalf of CFI. However, the religious institutions and the chamber of commerce win. It is obvious that the motives are religious indoctrination, saving the religious schools, and companies who want to make a profit are behind this plan to destroy public education.

To the few who stand up against these bills, it must be incredibly frustrating. There was a lot of passion from these folks in defense of sanity. Many thanks Senators Stoops, Becker , Breaux, Taylor, and Mrvan for voting against SB 371 in the senate committee. Senators Stoops, Becker, Breaux and Taylor posed great questions to the proponents of the bill and were very emotional at times in their voices of opposition. In the House, Representatives Battles, Errington, Austin, Vanderburgh, and Vernon Smith gave impassioned speeches against HB 1003.

When will these voices of reason prevail? Will it happen before it is too late?