On Mar. 24, Governor Mike Pence signed the House Act 1337. The act restricts abortions, stating a woman cannot get an abortion based on race, ancestry, gender, nationality, or disability. A woman must also listen to the heartbeat of the fetus and view the ultrasound at least 18 hours before going through with the abortion and then is required to pay for any cremation or burial services.
Since the signing of the controversial act, pro-abortion rights residents of Indiana have been very vocal about their problems with the act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky have filed a lawsuit against the act. A campaign, Periods for Pence, has formed over social media where women call in and report the happenings of their menstrual cycles to Pence’s office. The campaign has become popular, gaining national attention from media outlets like Cosmopolitan, NPR, and the New York Times.
With all the outrage surrounding the new act, the anti-abortion rights crowd has been exceptionally quiet in its defense. Growing up in a Catholic home and school that taught to be against abortion, I found myself a bit torn between agreeing and disagreeing with the act. I had heard and come to understand the pro-abortion rights perspective, but wanted to gain an understanding of the anti-abortion rights perspective.
Alexandra Makris, student government Senator of the Catholic Student Organization at IUPUI, explains how being anti-abortion rights is much more than being against abortion, “It means respecting life, from the life within the womb, to the mother and father, to the elderly. The recent legislation seeks to ensure that the unborn not be discriminated against based on qualities such as gender, race, or disability.”
The main reason for the act, which has been overlooked because of the restrictions, is to ensure that life is respected by not only making sure an unborn child isn’t discriminated against, but by also stating an aborted or miscarried fetus must be cremated or buried and cannot be disposed with medical waste.
While the law is meant to respect life, what is upsetting are the requirements a woman getting the abortion has to follow, such as paying for the burial or cremation services as opposed to the medical center handling those arrangements. This requirement, along with having to listen to the heartbeat and view the ultrasound seem to be a guilt tactic. Having to hear and see the fetus may cause the woman to go back on her decision impulsively. Having to bury or cremate the fetus may have a negative effect on her mental state.
However, Father Rick Nagel, the pastor at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, explains how these requirements are not guilt tactics but just another step in respecting life in the womb. “It is an effort to help them know this is a human being. The ultrasound is a good tool to help people know what they’re doing, that there is life here they may decide to terminate. [Burying the dead] is the dignity of life…there is a dignity of the soul that should be honored, and I think it’s the same with the unborn.”
But what if a woman cannot afford to pay for burial services? “Any woman that couldn’t afford the burial services: just have them come [to St. John]. As a Catholic Church, we would always find a way to help them,” says Father Nagel.
This offer folds into the post-birth programs the church hosts. Recently, those on the anti-abortion rights side are developing a poor reputation of being pro-birth, meaning they protest and petition for children to not be aborted, but put no thought into the child’s life after birth.
“There definitely is some of that where people will stand on the front lines the pro-life movement, but I don’t think we could say that across the board,” says Nagel. “For example, here at our parish, there are a couple things we participate in that are very much pro-life and post-birth. And one of them is the Gabriel Project.”
The Great Lakes Gabriel Project is a Christian-based network of church volunteers who will help women and families of any background during pregnancy and post-birth. “Last year at Christmas we adopted a family of nine children,” says Nagel. “It was the parish taking on a beautiful role [by asking] ‘what are your needs.’ We were helping them so they would have food, so the kids would have gifts, so they could have that sense of joy that kids have on Christmas.”
The parish went beyond Christmas. They helped the father find a job and, during the search, they helped the family pay their utility bills, rent, and a parishioner even gave the family $1,000 a month for a year until the family was back on their feet. “I think that is very pro-life. To say we care about your unborn child but we also care about your other eight children and you.”
Whichever side a person lands on, whether it be anti-abortion rights or pro-abortion rights, it is important that people become open to having discussions to understand both viewpoints. “If controversial issues are avoided, when will we improve our ability to mediate and discuss how to best serve women?” says Alexandra Makris. “It will not happen overnight. There is anger and hurt and misunderstanding across the board.”