Those for, against abortion rights will continue to make voices heard despite Indiana court ruling

Every Tuesday for years Julie Storbeck of Valparaiso and a small group of protesters stand on the corner of Lincolnway Avenue and Franklin Street in front of Porter County Courthouse waving signs supporting a woman’s right to an abortion.

On the opposite courthouse corner another small group also armed with signs — this time supporting an anti-abortion position — are there as well, spending their lunch hour trying to sway public opinion in their favor.

Both groups said the Indiana Supreme Court’s Monday decision not to rehear a challenge to the state’s near-total abortion ban will not stop them from making their voices heard.

Storbeck, president of Indiana NOW, provided a statement form the state organization decrying the abortion ban.

“Abortion bans such as Indiana’s do not stop abortions, only safe abortions,” she said in the statement. “The Indiana National Organization for Women condemns this ban in the strongest of terms, and those who voted to codify second class citizenship on women and girls. We will never stop fighting for gender equality and the equal right to access affordable health care, including reproductive care.”

Storbeck and her fellow protesters Tuesday said they were disheartened but planned to continue to fight.

“I feel betrayed by our country. I’m here for our daughters,” Lisa Gellement of Union Township, said.

Gellement was joined by her daughter Zoe, 15. She was saddened Zoe does not have the same rights to her body as she did at the same age.

“We shouldn’t have to be doing this again,” Mary Jo Nuland of Valparaiso said.

“We fought for a generation,” Meribeth Swartz, also of Valparaiso, added.

Farren Domenici of Valparaiso said they will continue to fight for equality until all people have the same rights.

“It hits personally home for me as a trans woman,” Domenici said.

Zoe Gellement said she came with her mom every week because she does not agree with what is happening.

“I don’t think what the government is currently doing accurately represents the people,” Zoe said.

Kristin Jozkowski, professor of public health at Indiana University Bloomington, would agree. Jozkowski said public sentiment when it comes to abortion does not line up with legislative action in states like Indiana where steps are taken to ban or severely limit abortion access.

Jozkowski leads the IU Abortion Attitudes Project Team, which began about six years ago, before the Dobbs decision, looking into the attitudes surrounding abortion.

“Having legislation in place for a near total ban with some exceptions is fairly inconsistent with people’s attitudes toward abortion,” Jozkowski said.

People in general support abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, in the case of fetal anomaly or of risk to the mother, and in cases of rape or incest, she said their research found.

“The endorsement of legal abortion is largely consistent with people’s attitudes in the U.S. with little geographic discrepancy,” she said.

While Indiana may be a red state in the middle of America, research shows a majority of its residents support legal abortion, Jozkowski said.

“We don’t see huge discrepancies in terms of geography based on attitudes. There is inconsistency with these policies and people’s attitudes,” she said.

“We’ve been studying various facets of abortion attitudes. Our work precedes current events. I think that it is a complicated issue. I think a lot of people don’t like abortion as an act, but know it is something that exists within society. People broadly recognize the utility of abortion and seem to endorse it being legal to some degree.

Polls and national surveys, including the General Social Survey, consistently show a majority of people support access to abortion. Since 1972, the GSS has found upward of 60% to 80% of the population think abortion should be legal.

Jody Madeira, law professor with the Indiana University Mauer School of Law in Bloomington, said the ACLU can be expected to file a new lawsuit on narrower grounds in an effort to overturn the state’s near total abortion ban in the wake of the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Basically, they’ll be starting from scratch and the ban now will be in effect,” Madeira said.

She said the court, in its denial of a rehearing, appeared to signal to the ACLU it would consider a narrower challenge to the law such as defining health risk in the law.

In the meantime, while the law does provide four exceptions where abortion would be legal, the exceptions are murky and could prevent doctors and health care providers from performing the services even in cases that would be allowed. For example the scan taken to detect fetal anomaly happens at about 20 weeks, the cap by law where an abortion can be performed in the case of fetal anomaly.

“That (exception) is sort of meaningless. Even those limited exceptions are not as useful as they appear,” she said.

Richard and Rosemarie Stith of Valparaiso and Pat and Mike Garcher, also of Valparaiso, have been keeping vigil on the opposite corner of the Porter County Courthouse in opposition to abortion. Richard Stith said the Supreme Court ruling changes nothing. They plan to continue their protests, which take place two other days each week as well, even though the abortion ban is now in effect.

“I think the task of helping women who need help will continue. They still need help,” Richard Stith said.

“I really don’t see our role being much different,” he said. Stith said the group, which averages about six people, is there to educate people.

Mike Garcher said while abortion now may be illegal in Indiana it is still legal in neighboring states like Illinois so the work must continue.

“This is to change hearts and minds,” he said.