Hundreds of protesters rally for abortion rights at statehouse, clash with a few anti-abortion activists

You could hear them from inside the Senate Chambers, where lawmakers gathered Monday afternoon, the first day of Indiana's special session to discuss Senate Republican's proposed abortion ban. For more than three hours, the voices of the protesters were thunderous and unrelenting.

"My body, my choice."

"Vote them out."

“Not the church, not the state, women must decide our fate,” hundreds of abortion rights protesters chanted as they lined up, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, outside the Senate Chambers. Chanting began half an hour before the testimony and continued for hours into the afternoon. Statehouse staff and the Indiana State Police personnel on-the-ground said they did not have a head count of the number of people in the building.At its peak, the crowd size inside and outside the statehouse was more than 1,000, based on IndyStar's count.

Outside the statehouse, the line to enter snaked around the building. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, 63, waited more than an hour to get in, sporting a shirt from an abortion rally he participated in in Washington, D.C. in 1992.“We are a mix of angry, scared, exasperated, activated, mobilized to let the Statehouse know that the state does not want what they are contemplating," he told IndyStar.

Among those who had gathered in support of abortion rights were a woman who could not afford to be a parent, a man who lost his sister when she died due to complications from illegal abortion, and Jessica Doriot, the daughter of Republican senator Blake Doriot (R-Goshen), who disagrees with his anti-abortion rights views.

At times, anti-abortion protesters clashed verbally with abortion-rights protesters, who outnumbered them by the hundreds all day. An anti-abortion rights rally is planned for Tuesday at the statehouse.

As a column of anti-abortion protesters passed by a throng of abortion rights protestors outside Senate Chambers, they held up signs reading "Stop the killing of the preborn" and graphic images of aborted fetuses. In answer, protesters cried, "Pro-life is a lie." Outside, a few anti-abortion and abortion rights protesters shoved and jostled each other.

About 60 anti-abortion protesters gathered in the statehouse, some attending a 10:30 a.m. press conference by Hoosiers Conservative Voices and Students for Life Action at the South Atrium. They held signs reading messages such as, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

Inside the statehouse, abortion rights protesters packed into the North Atrium, which usually seats 500, and the balconies of two floors overlooking it, for an ACLU of Indiana, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates and Women4Change Indiana rally in the morning that grew as the afternoon bore on and moved to outside the Senate Chambers.

Abortion rights protesters: Abortion access is life-saving

Lined along the two-floor balconies overlooking the atrium, the crowd of about 500 abortion rights protesters formed a wall of handmade signs reading ”Abortion is healthcare” and ”I should have more rights than guns.”

Outside the building, people held up signs as songs like “Roar” by Katy Perry blared from a speaker. Protesters handed out popsicles, water, sunscreen, and other supplies. They constructed a pyramid of handmade abortion rights signs on the steps of the Oliver P. Morton monument at the statehouse's east side.

“Abortion access is a life saving measure for survivors of intimate partner violence,” Kerry Hyatt Bennett, chief legal counsel at the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said to thunderous cheers from the crowd at the rally. “This state wants to take that access away from survivors.

“Women in Indiana will not forget this. They will not forget the people they voted for did not listen to them and did not choose to defend them.”

One in three women in the state of Indiana will experience sexual assault in their lifetime and of those one in seven will become pregnant as a result of that rape, Beth White, President of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault, said at the rally.

“Don’t let people tell you it’s God’s will that a rape survivor has the child of its rapist,” she said. “We have a problem in Indiana when a group of people, mostly men, tells you having the child of a rapist is public policy here in Indiana."

The Senate Republican proposal is an abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother, but it is unclear if it will pass in that form or undergo amendments to make it more restrictive.

More:Joy in Jeopardy: Why so many women die during childbirth in Indiana

Maggie Matz, 36, could die if she got pregnant. She told IndyStar she only has one ovary and suffers health complications that would lead to her having a tubal pregnancy, if she conceived.

She showed up at the Indiana Statehouse at 7 a.m. today, the first protester to arrive, she said. She wanted the state lawmakers to see her face as they entered the statehouse.

“Never did I think that I'd have to march for anything like this, for our rights as human beings and to be told what to do with your body,” she told IndyStar.

Although the Republican senators’ proposed bill includes exceptions for the life of the mother, Matz said, “I shouldn’t have to wait (until I might die.)"

In 1972, Betty Sturtevant marched in New York to get Roe v Wade passed. Now 72, of Fishers, she held a sign outside the statehouse on Monday that read “I marched 50 years ago so my three daughters and six granddaughters didn’t have to.”

Raiven Owusu, 24, a fourth-year IU medical student, is an aspiring OBGYN training at IU. She said it is "scary" seeing people's reproductive rights under attack.

Owusu said she thinks an abortion ban in Indiana might push medical students such as herself to leave Indiana for residency and train in states where abortion is legal.

Abortion-rights supporters protest in front of the Indiana Statehouse during a special session Monday, July 25, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

Abortion-rights supporters protest in front of the Indiana Statehouse during a special session Monday, July 25, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

Allie McHaley, 33, of Owen County, was raised in a Reform Jewish congregation, and views the issue as one of religious freedom. She grew up learning that in Judaism, the life of the mother is prioritized above all else in pregnancy and that abortion access is reproductive justice.

“Religious freedom is such a big issue in this country, and it is always Christian religious freedom not Jewish religious freedom,” McHaley said. “We are a minority, but we are loud.”

Anti-abortion protest: Chants of ‘my body, my choice’ are like ‘demonic voices screaming’

Nineteen people attended a morningpress conference held by Hoosiers Conservative Voices and Students for Life Action in the statehouse South Atrium. Anti-abortion protesters read statements against abortion on behalf of Republican senators and representatives, including U.S. Senator Todd Young and U.S. Senator Mike Braun.

Titus Folks, Students for Life Action grassroots coordinator, said during the press conference that his daughter was born with her trachea fused together and could not breathe without medical intervention.

He said he opposed abortions due to fetal health and that he would not let abortion activists “look at children like (his) daughter” and terminate those pregnancies.  As the statements were being read, hundreds of abortion rights protesters chanted “My body, my choice.” Their voices echoed down the marble halls of the Statehouse atriums and the anti-abortion protesters heard.

“You can hear the sounds of the ones who want to destroy the babies in the wombs. They sound like demonic voices screaming over there,” Micah Beckwith, the Noblesville pastor of Life Church Indiana and an anti-abortion advocate, said into the microphone during the press conference.

Anti-abortion supporters arrive a special session Monday, July 25, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.
Anti-abortion supporters arrive a special session Monday, July 25, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

Down the hall in the North Atrium, a lone anti-abortion protester was surrounded on all sides by abortion rights protesters in the thick of the rally by ACLU of Indiana, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates and Women4Change Indiana.

“Stop killing babies,” Sharon Sisson, 68, of Indianapolis, yelled. She told IndyStar she is distraught that more conservative protesters had not come out. She was one of about 60 holding anti-abortion signs. She said she thinks those who are anti-abortion aren’t here because they are complacent and believe the abortion ban will pass.

A woman who could not afford to be a parent. A man whose sister died in illegal abortion. A Republican senator's daughter who disagrees with his views.

The battle over abortion rights has divided viewsin at least one family. Among the pro-abortion rights protesters was Jessica Doriot, daughter of Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen).

Her sign read, “Senator Doriot: Keep your laws out of my uterus. Love, your daughter.”

Doriot, a Republican,campaigned on an anti-abortion platform in 2016, according to an archive of his 2016 campaign website, and stated then that "human life begins at the moment of conception." He has not publicly shared where he stands on the specific abortion ban proposal currently being debated by Senate Republicans.

Protester William Bell said he feared that banning abortion would put women’s lives at risk as they turn to dangerous, illegal means to terminate pregnancies.His sister was 17 years old when she attempted an illegal abortion for an unwanted pregnancy. Although abortion was constitutionally protected under Roe v. Wade, parental consent was required for individuals under 18 seeking an abortion and she wanted to keep it from their parents.

She died a few days later, on Sept. 16, 1988, from sepsis, he told IndyStar.

"She still had her whole life ahead of her," he said at the rally.

Kait Schutz, 32, is 20-weeks pregnant with her third child and credits the success and stability of her family now to the abortion she was able to have 13 years ago.

At 19, Schutz was working two jobs without health insurance, living on food stamps and was a full-time student at Indiana University when she said her birth control failed.

“I would’ve had to drop out and take care of a child I didn’t want, with a man who didn’t treat me right,” she said. “I was suffering just living by myself.”

Having the abortion allowed her to graduate college, earn a masters degree andshe is now employed building affordable housing in Indianapolis, Schutz said.

When she finally became a mother three years ago, it was by choice. She has no regrets about her decision to have an abortion.

People wait to give testimony in the Senate chambers at the Indiana Statehouse, Monday, July 25, 2022 in Indianapolis, Ind.  Legislators gathered for a special discussion to discuss abortion legislation.
People wait to give testimony in the Senate chambers at the Indiana Statehouse, Monday, July 25, 2022 in Indianapolis, Ind. Legislators gathered for a special discussion to discuss abortion legislation.

“My kids are my life, and I think most people would say I’m the best mom there is," Schutz said.

In light of the potential abortion ban in the state, she is considering moving her family elsewhere.

“I’m scared to have a child. What happens if something goes wrong?” Schutz said. “I deserve to be here for my kids; they deserve a mom here with them. The government shouldn’t be interfering between decisions with me, my husband and my medical team.”

IndyStar reporters Kaitlin Lange, Claire Rafford and Rachel Fradette contributed reporting.

Contact IndyStar reporter Ko Lyn Cheang at or 317-903-7071. Follow her on Twitter: @kolyn_cheang.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indianapolis abortion protests: Rally for rights and abortion ban