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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Respect reproductive rights: Slow down redistricting in Indiana

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Now that the Census’ population data has been released, Democrats and Republicans are ramping up efforts to use the information and draw congressional lines that will impact Indiana for decades to come. As the Indiana House of Representatives plans to reconvene during a special session, we’re calling on the state legislature to slow down and let the redistricting process be driven by the people. There is too much at stake. In 2021, in response to record breaking voter turnout numbers across the country, we’ve seen a surge of deliberate barriers to voting meant to make it harder for Black and Latino communities to vote.

These anti-voter bills present a grave threat to our freedom and prevent the needs of our communities from being met, including access to sexual and reproductive health care.

The people of Indiana are taking their concerns to the streets and the Statehouse with the hope that elected leaders will move the redistricting process out of a partisan-led legislature and into a bipartisan commission. In hearings around the state, testifiers have argued the public should have at least a couple of weeks to review the upcoming proposed maps, but the Republican majority say they plan to quickly advance the new maps to final votes as soon as possible.

In July, groups put pressure on their U.S. senators to support the For the People Act (the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed its version) — a comprehensive bill that seeks to expand voter access by allowing same-day voter registration and mail-in balloting, provisions for increased election security, transparency in campaign finance and, most timely of all, requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions. The Brennan Center for Justice says, “If enacted, it would be the most significant voting rights and democracy reform in more than half a century.”

Currently, this bill — that would essentially outlaw partisan gerrymandering — is stalled in the Senate because of the filibuster.

Our vote is our voice, and we can’t allow it to be silenced any further with so much at stake. Access to reproductive health care, especially abortion care, is already in grave danger. Roe v. Wade is still law, but when the Supreme Court failed to act and stop enforcement of a dangerous abortion ban in Texas, we all got a preview of what will come for this constitutionally protected right.

The fact that the Supreme Court decided to take up a 15-week ban in Mississippi, coupled with a six-week abortion ban in Texas, is cause for alarm. The law also has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and allows anyone — including anti-abortion protesters who have no connection to the patient — to act as bounty hunters and to take doctors, health centers and anyone who helps another person access abortion to court and collect $10,000 for each abortion.

This is unprecedented and has empowered legislators like Sen. Liz Brown to say she plans to bring a similar law to Indiana.

A new report commissioned by Women 4 Change says the Indiana General Assembly and current congressional maps are more biased toward one party (the Republican Party) than 95% of maps enacted in other states across the country.

State Rep. Cherrish Pryor, Indiana House Democratic Caucus floor leader and member of the Indiana House election committee, says, “Let’s be clear: partisan redistricting using political data will only push communities of color — which are already dramatically underrepresented — further into the shadows. It is already well-publicized that both Indiana’s state legislative and congressional districts are among the most gerrymandered in the country. Most gerrymandered is not a category we should be proud to lead. It flips the sacredness of democracy on its head and puts power in the hands of politicians and not The People.”

We have already seen what our elected leaders have done with their power. Extremist politicians have neglected the essential services that keep our communities healthy — education, social services, the health care safety net — by pouring money into military-style police forces that continue to commit abuses and take lives without consequences.

They prioritize unpopular anti-abortion policies instead of addressing the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. And they target the LGBTQ+ community by stripping away their protections. Before this year, Indiana had passed more abortion restrictions than any other state except Louisiana and legislators still felt compelled to politicize public health during this ongoing pandemic and pass an omnibus abortion bill. House Bill 1577 came with a laundry list of restrictions, including the requirement that doctors lie to their patients about the possibility of abortion reversal.

We’ve seen enough, and it is time for a change. At noon Sept. 16 on the steps of the Indiana Capitol on Washington Street, All In for Democracy Indiana will host a rally to get our community ready for committee hearings. Planned Parenthood will be there, speaking out against gerrymandering and pushing to protect your reproductive health care and civil rights. Please join us next week and call your legislators and demand a fair and independent redistricting system! The people of Indiana must decide who represents them. Remember: No Voice No Power!

LaKimba DeSadier is Indiana state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

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