Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. May 17, 2024.

Editorial: Abortion law provisions for doctor punishments could lead to fewer OB-GYNs

Earlier this month, an anti-abortion group filed suit in Marion County Superior Court to regain access to abortion records no longer released by the Indiana Department of Health.

State officials stopped releasing monthly individual Terminated Pregnancy Reports out of concern the information could indirectly identify women getting the procedure. But that’s of little worry to Voices for Life, a grassroots organization fighting abortion.

The South Bend-based organization is more interested in holding doctors and hospitals accountable for performing abortions.

“Accessing these reports has always been about evaluating provider compliance with Indiana abortion law,” said Melanie Garcia Lyon, executive director of Voices for Life, during a news conference May 1. “If this were truly a privacy concern, the health department could easily redact info on these reports. But this isn’t about protecting women’s privacy. This is about protecting dangerous abortion providers from public scrutiny and allowing them to continue to operate without consequences for legal action.”

Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, which took effect in August 2023, provides a few, narrow exceptions. Abortions are only allowed if a woman’s health or life is at risk; if there’s a lethal fetal anomaly up to 20 weeks post-fertilization; and in cases of rape or incest, but only up to 10 weeks.

A small section of Indiana’s ban mandates the license revocation of a doctor who performs an unlawful abortion, now a Level 5 felony, which carries a prison term of between one and six years and a fine of up to $10,000. Voices for Life has requested and reviewed individual Terminated Pregnancy Reports since 2022, Lyon said, and has submitted complaints about 701 cases of suspected illegal activity gleaned from such reports.

Terminated Pregnancy Reports contain the age, education and marital status of the woman, the date of the abortion, gestational age of the fetus, race and ethnicity of the woman, as well as the city and county where the abortion occurred. The state health department stopped releasing the reports in December, and Public Access Counselor Luke Britt found they could be “reverse-engineered to identify patients — especially in smaller communities.”

He agreed with the health department that the required quarterly reports should suffice in terms of satisfying any disclosure and transparency considerations. Britt also said the records, created by doctors, fall under the provider-patient relationship as medical records.

Last month, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita issued a non-binding opinion saying terminated pregnancy reports are public records. He issued the opinion in response to a request from Huntington Republican Sen. Andy Zay.

“I think for an agency like the Department of Health to arbitrarily just stop doing a statutorily required report is not the way government is intended to work,” Zay told The Journal Gazette. “So my question to the attorney general was, can they just stop doing a report that is statutorily required in the state of Indiana? And he responded with his ruling that they couldn’t.”

Chris Daley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, told The Journal Gazette that doctors and hospitals are under enormous scrutiny and risk of liability in every state that has limited women’s access to abortion, and intimidation of physicians is not an unintended consequence. He said scaring doctors away from providing abortion care, even when it’s legal and needed to save the life of the mother, is their goal.

Aimee West, vice president of Women 4Change Indiana, worries deciding which abortion cases qualify for a medical exception can be a career-jeopardizing judgment call for Hoosier doctors.

“The number of physicians who are going into the obstetrics and gynecology field have drastically reduced,” she told The Journal Gazette. “They take the Hippocratic oath to do everything they can to save lives, but their oath and saving a woman’s life is at odds with the law now.”

By including penalties for doctors who perform abortions, state lawmakers have created a potential crisis around access to a medical procedure that could lead to fewer OB-GYNs in Indiana. Given the makeup of the Statehouse, legislation striking the section of state law mandating those penalties is improbable.

Until Hoosiers who support the right to an abortion vote their values, it will be difficult for doctors and hospitals to ensure the protections that exist in the new abortion law, let alone the restoration of the right to reproductive freedom in Indiana.


Anderson Herald Bulletin. May 18, 2024.

Editorial: Stop gerrymandering and make voting easier

Gerrymandered districts. Polls that close early. Photo ID requirements. Early voting and vote-by-mail restrictions.

Yes, Indiana has them all.

Is it any wonder so few Hoosiers vote?

About 20-25% of eligible adults cast ballots in Indiana’s May 7 primary. It’s pathetic when just two in 10 Hoosiers are exercising their right to vote.

This is a continuing trend. Witness November 2020, when Indiana had the ninth-lowest voter percentage turnout in the presidential election.

If we can’t get folks to vote in a presidential election or in a primary with hotly contested races for gubernatorial and congressional nominations, it’s a sad day in Indiana.

But don’t blame this troubling civic failure on Hoosiers. Blame it on our so-called leaders in the state legislature. They’re the ones who’ve set the rules for voting in Indiana.

Why are we just one of five states where polling sites close at 6 p.m. on Election Day? No state closes polls earlier than Indiana. Twenty-four states don’t close until 8 p.m. local time at the earliest.

Just think how many more Hoosiers would vote if they had another hour or two in the evening.

Currently, for many folks whose workday doesn’t end until 5 or 6 p.m., making it to the polls before they close is problematic. And getting there early in the morning is difficult, too, with both work and family considerations getting in the way.

Indiana’s voter photo ID requirements and relatively restrictive early voting, absentee and vote-by-mail rules pose other obstacles for civic-minded Hoosiers.

But the most blatantly deliberate obstacle to voting in Indiana is gerrymandering, the practice by the party in power of seizing the opportunity to consolidate votes when constitutionally-required redistricting rolls around after the U.S. Census every 10 years.

The Republican Party has held a supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature and has perpetuated its dominance when redrawing districts. Democrats, when holding the majority in the past, have been guilty of this, as well.

If legislators in the majority would do the right thing by Hoosiers, redistricting would be a truly non-partisan effort aimed at creating symmetrically shaped districts, as it is in some other states. Instead, those who hold power in the Legislature consistently choose party over state, creating a patchwork of oddly shaped districts that approximate a Rorschach test.

The objective: to protect their own incumbents while squeezing the other party’s out.

Fighting a losing battle in districts drawn to extend Republican power, Democrats offered no candidates for many key positions on May primary ballots across the state. Democratic Party leaders know victory in gerrymandered districts is a pipe dream, so why bother?

As a result, many voters who would choose Democratic candidates don’t bother to vote in the primary or General Election. Obviously, the solution to low voter turnout in Indiana is to change the rules.

Outlaw gerrymandering. Keep the polls open longer on Election Day. Relax overly aggressive requirements for voter registration, photo IDs, and early and absentee voting.

In other words, give Hoosiers fairly drawn districts and fewer hoops to jump through, and they will vote.


Terre Haute Tribune-Star. May 17, 2024.

Editorial: Teachers rightly challenge added literacy-training requirement

A TV commercial for a vaccine is aimed at folks 50 and older who naively believe their healthy lifestyle shields them from the shingles virus.

The narrator repeatedly reminds them, “Shingles doesn’t care.” Bike riding, trail walking and good citizenship cannot stop the varicella virus from emerging.

That phrase, with a slight twist, could be used to describe the efforts of Indiana teachers to get the Republican-ruled legislature to treat them as educated, qualified professionals.

The educators’ long-running predicament bubbled up again last week at a State Board of Education meeting in Indianapolis. Teachers from around the state, including several from Vigo County, packed into the May 8 session. They pushed back against a new law requiring all pre-K to Grade 6 and special-education teachers to complete 80 hours of professional development on “science of reading” concepts, and to pass a written exam. Teachers will not be able to renew their licenses without completing the 80-hour Keys to Literacy training and passing the exam by 2027.

Teachers would get a stipend of $1,200, amounting to $15 an hour, for earning their “early literacy endorsement.”

Legislators in the Indiana General Assembly passed the law earlier this year as part of an effort to remedy falling literacy scores, based on science of reading principles. The science of reading encompasses a body of research in education, psychology and neuroscience that explains how people learn to read and details best practices for teaching reading.

At last week’s meeting, teachers spoke out about the added time burden, given that many work second jobs to make ends meet during the summers. Teachers described the extensive education and degrees they already have invested time and resources into completing. Special-education teachers pointed out that they already go through multiple requirements for licenses. Others complained there were not enough open spots in the training, delaying their attempts to complete it.

A Fort Wayne educator testified that teachers agree with the need to improve, and do not expect the science of reading approach to disappear. They just want it to be relevant to the classroom. As a Vigo County elementary music teacher stated, the 80 hours of her off time devoted exclusively to the science of reading “will not make me a better music teacher, and it will certainly not allow me time to seek out professional development in ways that will benefit my classroom environment.”

The Indiana General Assembly doesn’t care.

The law was not concocted and passed with teachers’ burdens and concerns in mind. The legislature’s leadership has a track record of not trusting teachers to do their jobs and has periodically added complications to their duties. Lawmakers’ disrespectful approach has compounded Indiana’s teacher shortage. Much of that attitude stems from a dislike of teachers unions, such as the Indiana State Teachers Association. Indeed, the ISTA encouraged teachers to attend last week’s meeting, and they came with valid objections to the application of the literacy teaching requirements.

A fourth-grade teacher explained that she had completed more than 85 hours of professional development, by choice, in her first two years on the job. “You’re dangling this $1,200 stipend in front of my face, telling me it’s worth it,” she said. The implication from the state toward teachers is, as she put it, “We respect you. Here’s a little crumb.”

“I don’t want a crumb. I want respect,” she concluded.

The training is free through 2025 via a third-party professional development program, Chalkbeat Indiana reported. State Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said she will collaborate with legislators to keep the teachers’ course free beyond 2025. Jenner also said she, the state board and education officials want to create more flexibility for teachers to complete the training.

That flexibility should have been a prime consideration when legislators enacted the teaching requirements.