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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Shahid: Trust women to make decisions

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In Indiana, women are trusted to run major corporations, lead teams that develop life-saving drugs, raise children and serve in elected office. But they aren’t trusted to make decisions about their own bodies.

That is the message the Indiana General Assembly seems poised to send to the world. It’s a message that speaks volumes about how free and equal women are in Indiana, and one with ramifications well beyond the issue of abortion.

As we wait for the General Assembly to meet later this month to discuss banning abortion in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we implore all 150 elected officials to consider exactly what they will be saying if they vote to remove a woman’s right to safely end a pregnancy.

They will be saying that a woman cannot be trusted to make the right decisions about her own reproductive health.

They will be saying that a woman in Indiana should not have the freedom to decide whether continuing with a pregnancy — despite complications, obstacles and risk — is the right thing to do.

They will be saying that, while a woman is expected to always do what is best for her family, she can’t always be trusted to discern what is best.

They will be saying that a woman’s ability to control her destiny should be limited by her ability to bear children.

They will be saying, quite simply, that women don’t have the same rights in Indiana as they do in other states. After all, if women can’t control when and if they start a family, they are not, as the Constitution promises, free and equal.

We have seen before how Indiana fares when it legislates itself back into a bygone era. After the state passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), citizens across the state turned out in protest, major corporations and organizations boycotted the state, countless potential residents likely chose to move elsewhere, and the state became the target of ridicule.

We’re already seeing similar reactions, with a draft letter opposing anti-abortion legislation circulating in the business and nonprofit community, citizens showing up at the Indiana Statehouse to make their voices heard and countless women and men who have been politically inactive suddenly stepping forward to say, “What can I do?”

This demonstrates just how important this decision is. Personally, I believe we have never faced a more consequential moment in the fight for women’s equity in the United States. Yes, the suffragettes transformed the nation by winning women’s right to vote, but their struggle was about adding a right that should have been in place from our nation’s first days. Today, we’re witnessing efforts to take away rights that have existed for decades, something that has never occurred before.

You can tell a lot about a society by the way it treats women. If Indiana bans abortions, you can expect individuals, organizations and corporations to use that same metric when they consider the possibility of living, operating, gathering or doing business in Indiana.

You also can expect that, as Women4Change fires up its get-out-the-vote efforts this year in the weeks, months and years ahead, we’ll remind Hoosiers how each legislator running for reelection stands on this issue. We won’t back down in our efforts to advocate for women to make decisions about their own bodies.

Rima Shahid is CEO of Women4Change Indiana.

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