David Hoppe

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:: Great to be straight or unborn

What Republicans have wrought

By David Hoppe

So much for that.

Democratic members of the Indiana House of Representatives returned from their self-imposed exile in Urbana, Illinois last week. They were just in time to see Republicans pass one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the United States. Or as Eric Turner, the Republican from Cicero, who wrote the bill put it, this "will make Indiana one of the most pro-life states in America."

Ah, the power of positive thinking - although Rep. Turner's law has more to do with power than with thinking. Among its provisions is the requirement that doctors tell women who are seeking an abortion that there is a connection between terminating their pregnancy and breast cancer. Apparently an organization called the Republican National Coalition for Life says this connection exists, even though the best efforts of the American Cancer Society have failed to find such a link. But never mind. Indiana's Republicans have the votes and they are telling women in Indiana who controls their bodies. Republicans in Indiana, that's who.

Sen. Vi Simpson, a Democrat from Elletsville, offered an amendment to the bill that would have required any information given to women seeking abortions be "medically and scientifically accurate." Republicans, afraid of confusing women with facts, voted this amendment down.

Given the tenor of what passed for debate on this bill, you have to wonder exactly where women (many of whom, it must be said, are Republicans; Sen. Patricia Miller sponsored anti-abortion legislation in the senate) fit into the Republican scheme of things. It seems that not only do unborn children need to be protected from women's wanton ways, but insurance companies need to be protected from women's propensity for lying. When Democrats proposed an amendment to the bill that would have allowed some health insurance plans to cover abortion in the event of rape or incest, Rep. Turner reminded everyone that a woman might lie about being raped in order to get her abortion paid for.

After having planted this poison pill, Rep. Turner did what's become typical of public figures these days: he apologized. He could afford to. The Republican majority killed the amendment.

So this is what we get from the party that never tires of saying that government's too big, too intrusive and that we have to get it off our backs. This is the party that claims to pride itself on individualism. As far as Republicans are concerned, individualism, is great, the foundation of our freedom. So long, that is, as every individual acts the same.

If women weren't bad enough, Republicans have also had the gays to deal with. And deal with them they have, bringing back a constitutional amendment to not only outlaw gay marriage, but any form of civil union between same-sex partners.

Fortunately, it takes awhile to amend the Indiana constitution. The legislature will have to vote in favor of the amendment yet another time, in two years, and then all of us will have a vote in a general election. The people of Indiana may yet save their state from the bigotry promoted by this current crop of elected representatives.

How, exactly, gay people are going to ruin marriage is hard to figure out, particularly since marriage is already tainted by - you guessed it - women.

But defending marriage from gays is a smokescreen, a convenient pretext for inserting discriminatory, anti-gay language into the state's constitution. It's the equivalent of adding a line to all those welcome signs posted along Indiana's borders that reads: GAYS KEEP OUT.

Indiana already has a law making gay marriage illegal. The argument we should be having is over this law's dubious constitutionality, challenging the basis upon which the state says who can marry and who cannot. It's a fair guess that Republicans fear such a challenge. Their drive to build anti-gay bias into the constitution is a kind of preemptive strike against the possibility of court-ordered repeal.

An Indiana where this argument could take place would be a very different state from the one we live in today. Today's Indiana, as interpreted by the Republican majorities in the Statehouse, is a place bent on turning large portions of our population into second class citizens. Women can't be trusted to make responsible decisions regarding their bodies; gays can't be trusted to form households or raise kids.

I'm not sure how Republicans think that treating women and gays in these ways will make Indiana stronger. In both cases, their lawmaking seems to be about trying to protect this state from the future. That, of course, is an impossible task. It also betrays the Republicans' lack of faith in people. Rather than allow individuals to navigate their various ways through the difficulties and hardships of this life with some modicum of dignity, the Republican agenda has played favorites - unborn children and straight men - and punished losers - women and same-sex couples. They are building a wall around Indiana that mistakes social isolation for strength.

What a sour scene for those prodigal Democrats to come home to. After being gone for five weeks, they returned to a blunt fact: power doesn't budge.