How Pence killed women's rights and lost $60 million and the LGBTQ vote

RFRA and HEA 1337 are some of Pence's biggest marks on Indiana


  • Wayne Bertsch

All signs point to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Trumps pick for VP. 

Today the Indianapolis Business Journal cited a political website called Roll Call who announced (based on "a Republican with direct knowledge of the decision") that Trump will definitely be going with Pence as his pick. In light of the news, we wanted to help readers understanding two major acts of social issue legislation that embattled Pence during his time as Governor of Indiana.

  • NUVO file photo

What is RFRA?

RFRA is the acronym for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was a law that was intended to allow individuals and companies to use their religious burden as a defense in legal cases.

RELATED: Who is Donald Trump's VP pick, Mike Pence? A primer for non-Hoosiers

What’s the problem?
The problem with the law was that it could have been used as a source of LGBTQ discrimination. For example, if a business did not want to serve a customer based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, it was feared that the law would allow that. What many didn’t recognize is that a denial of service for any reason in Indiana is perfectly legal. However, the law forever labeled Indiana as an unfriendly place for LGBTQ people. Eventually language was created in a separate bill to “clarify” the intentions of the law.

When was it enacted?
The law and the clarification addendum were enacted July 1, 2015.

Who did it impact?
The law caused a lot of concern in Indy’s LGBTQ community. It revealed that many human rights are still not protected for LGBTQ people in the state. It also concerned the ACLU of Indiana, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations because of the implications that the religious implications could be used to weaken protections held by other identified classes.

What did it do to Indiana?
RFRA cost Indiana 12 conventions and an estimated $60 million in economic impact. The city of Indianapolis launched a campaign called “We Welcome All” to try and assure travelers that no matter what happens in the rest of the state, the capitol is welcoming.

Mike Pence hired an outside PR firm to try and “fix” Indiana’s image. That didn't go so well — they were dismissed shortly after the contract was finalized.

RFRA introduced awareness to the fact that the LGBTQ community is not an a class of people identified as protected against public discrimination in the state. That awareness led to an effort to legally identify gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as a protected class according to the state’s civil rights law. The effort was unsuccessful in the 2016 General Assembly session, however several Indiana cities enacted local ordinances to accomplish the same thing in on the local level. 

  • NUVO file photo

What is HEA1337?
The wide-sweeping reproductive rights restrictions bill has been called the strictest abortion law in the nation. Simply put, HEA 1337 makes Indiana the most hostile state in the country when it comes to women’s rights.

What’s the problem?

The bill was very dense and caused a lot of confusion. But four of your NUVO editrixes were able to distill it down to this:

HEA1337 forces healthcare facilities who have possession of a miscarried fetus to provide either cremation or burial.

It prohibits any woman from getting an abortion for reasons based on the fetus's race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, or diagnosis (or potential diagnosis) of Down syndrome or any other disability — even if any of those things would put the child at risk or ensure a short life — regardless of the gestational age of the fetus.

RELATED: How disabled rights impacted HEA 1337

The physician or healthcare provider performing the abortion in violation the previous statute is at risk of criminal prosecution.

It forces the few women who can get an abortion (meeting all of the previous requirements) to wait at least 18 hours between when they are educated about the options — including the witness of a mandatory ultrasound —and when an abortion procedure takes place. This puts a tremendous burden on lower-income women, who, after all of the above things were put in place, would likely have to make a very long trip for medical visits and miss two days at work potentially losing income for the missed days.

RELATED: Who voted yes to HEA 1337

When was it enacted?
HEA1337 was supposed to go into Indiana law on July 1, 2016. Shortly after it was signed, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky sued the Indiana State Dept. of Health claiming the law was unconstitutional. Since the case was heard, U.S. District Court judge Tanya Walton Pratt issued her opinion as well as a preliminary injunction, noting that House Enrolled Act 1337 is unconstitutional as a violation against due process and equal protection under the law. PPINK challenged the law, claiming the new restrictions on abortion imposed an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose because of the prohibition based on the fetus’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, diagnosis or potential diagnosis of a disability regardless of gestational age.

Who did it impact?
Every woman in Indiana, whether they want to have children or can get pregnant or not. Rights were stripped away when the majority of legislators in Indiana voted yes to the bill. There’s a particular impact on women who are undocumented, underprivileged or identify as LGBTQ.

RELATED: The intersectional impact of HEA 1337

What did it do to Indiana?
So far the impacts are hard to measure in quantitative terms, but the law has already has fostered a dramatic backlash (Periods for Pence, anyone?) and will likely impact the upcoming election. With HEA 1337, lawmakers in Indiana aimed to strip away Hoosier women’s right to choose, placed a heavy burden on lower income women and put hundreds of doctors at risk — forcing more of them to not offer women’s services at all.


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