Indiana State Legislature Holds Special Session To Consider New Abortion Laws

Abortion rights protestors outside the Indiana State Capitol building in late July. On Friday, the General Assembly passed, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed, an almost complete ban on abortion in the state.

Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Another reason not to work in Indiana

Eli Lilly and Co. was quick to understand just how bad a near-total abortion ban can be on business.

Congratulations! After years of gerbil-on-a-wheel effort at the Feinberg School of Medicine, you’ll be getting your degree in pharmacology this spring. The world is your oyster.

But where to scale Mount Pharma? You could stay close to home and go to work for AbbVie or plunge into the sizzling hot San Francisco biotech scene. But you’ve already been in Chicago — well, titrating urine in windowless labs in Chicago anyway — for seven years. And the cost of living is so high in the City by the Bay. You’ll end up in Oakland if you’re not careful.

Eli Lilly looks intriguing, and your paycheck will certainly stretch further in Indiana — median home values there are 20% less than Illinois. Yes, Indianapolis, where Lilly has its headquarters, is not exactly Fun City.

Opinion bug


But isn’t Indiana sinking back into some kind of medieval fiefdom when it comes to women, having enacted a near-total ban on abortion Friday night? The first state legislature to kneecap reproductive rights since Donald Trump’s personal Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.

Nobody picks their career path based on convenient abortion access. And with what Lilly pays you — research scientists there can pull down $140,000 or more a year — popping into Illinois to do the deed won’t be more than an expensive annoyance.

But the ban does set a tone, doesn’t it? Because zealots, like sharks, must move forward or they can’t breathe. Shutting down abortion clinics leads to controlling the ability of women to travel freely, or order certain medicines in the mail or even talk about particular medical options.

Before long you’re living “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Do you really want to raise your family in the Republic of Gilead?

What’s amazing is how fast Lilly understood their business model — hire smart people to invent new drugs — is threatened by Indiana telling women to shut up and get back in the kitchen. Hours after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 1 into law, the 148-year-old company issued a public statement.

Abortion, the conglomerate explained, is a “divisive and deeply personal issue, with no clear consensus among citizens of Indiana.”

As opposed to Kansas, which put the matter to a vote, with state control of women’s bodies losing soundly, by an 18-point margin, 59% to 41%.

“Despite this lack of agreement, Indiana has opted to quickly adopt one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the United States,” the company announced. “We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s — and Indiana’s — ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world. Given this new law, we will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.”

I’m sure Gov. Pritzker will be more than happy to help them there.

I don’t want to suggest that hurting their own economies and dimming their future growth is the primary problem with banning abortion. Though it will sting: The 2015 Religious Freedom Act, the Indiana law weaponizing Christianity as justification for discrimination against gay people, has cost Indianapolis $60 million in lost business, according to its visitors and convention bureau.

The biggest problem with banning abortion is that doing so is a grotesque, religion-stoked intrusion into the lives of girls, women and everyone who loves them. Boyfriends. Dads. Brothers. Sisters.

It takes a deeply personal decision — whether to bear a child — tears it out of their hands, and gives it to faith-addled fanatics they’ve never met and who don’t care at all about them. Otherwise, they’d step back, heads bowed, mumbling, “I’m terribly sorry; I’ve allowed my religious zeal to turn me into a monster.”

Seizing the personal health-care and family-planning decisions of others and running them through law is immoral, inhuman and anti-American. You wouldn’t permit the state legislature to decide which toothpaste you use. If the lawmakers in Indianapolis voted to require Colgate over Crest, the nation would never stop laughing.

The only reason they would presume to make this vastly more significant decision is because they’ve convinced themselves their notional babies — fetuses the size of a cocktail frank, usually — are the Gerber baby, cooing and gurgling and locked in a burning building and must be saved.

And the kicker is, they don’t even believe that. Not really. Ask any anti-abortion fanatic when the women who’ve had abortions in 2021 and 2020 and beyond are going to be tracked down, prosecuted for killing their babies and put in prison where murderers belong. The answer ... not that they’d be honest enough to say it, but let’s pretend ... is “never.”

Because the babies they’re so worked up about are not in fact real murdered babies but a metaphor. An argument which, obviously, works. Asking when women who had abortions in the past are going to jail is like asking how much cheese Disney World goes through feeding Mickey Mouse. He’s a very big deal there. But the answer is still: none.

No cheese because he isn’t really a mouse. He’s an image. Ditto for the babies who now form an invisible zombie army of occupation in Indiana and half the country. We can’t register guns because the right is terrified of the government keeping tabs. But they’ll let it read women’s emails and track their periods.

For years, Republican legislators seemed to understand this, and hoovered up votes while a nationwide ban danced away, a will-o-the-wisp.

Now thanks to Donald Trump — who really does kill all he touches — the U.S. Supreme Court, its judgment and reputation ruined, has set the stage for states to voluntarily ruin themselves. Indiana, natch, was the first to jump in.

The tragedy — well, among the enormous expanding blast zone of radiating tragedies — is that we’ll never know what life-saving drugs weren’t discovered at Eli Lilly because the fresh pharmacology grads who would have discovered them there wouldn’t set foot in Indiana.

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