INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Car horns blared in morning traffic on Sept. 13 as the pro-life group Sidewalk Advocates stood post outside a Planned Parenthood clinic. Some commuters waved, others offered less gracious hand gestures.
“We call that the finger toward heaven,” one of the advocates said, smiling.
In the decade and a half they’ve been on the sidewalk outside this clinic, they’ve seen and heard the worst and best of the human condition.
“We have some very dedicated people who want to be there, first and foremost for the women,” said Sheryl Dye, who heads the local chapter of Sidewalk Advocates.
Their vigil is planned to end on Sept. 15.
In a special legislative session this summer, Indiana lawmakers became the first in the nation to pass abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the measure into law on Aug. 5. The law takes effect Sept. 15, effectively closing abortion clinics across the state.
Gracious in Victory
Archbishop Charles Thompson, archdiocese of Indianapolis, was not boastful in speaking about it, nor was anyone else who spoke with The Epoch Times.
“We remain steadfast in our efforts to build a culture of life and to protect the God-given dignity and humanity of all unborn babies and their mothers in our state,” Thompson said in a statement. “Our faith calls us to be voices for the voiceless, and we will continue to support all efforts to legally protect human life from the moment of conception until natural death.”
Mike Fichter, CEO of Indiana Right to Life, said he expects a 95 percent drop in abortions. Indiana totaled 8,414 abortions in 2021, most in abortion clinics, he said.
“It’s an opportunity to show love and compassion. This is Indiana’s moment to shine. The world is watching and we must show we’re a state that protects life. It’s about protecting babies and supporting moms.”
Indiana lawmakers passed the abortion measure during a special session in early August, called initially to deal with some of the state’s revenue windfall, before the Supreme Court sent Roe v. Wade back to the states.
As part of that revenue package, the legislature funneled financial support to mothers, babies, and pro-life services, topped by $45 million to support full-term programs for moms and babies. They increased the state’s adoption tax credit from $1,000 to $2,500, sent $2 million to pro-life centers, and vastly increased the number of safe haven baby boxes located at fire stations and hospitals.
“If a mother cannot take care of a newborn baby, they can place the child in one of these boxes and it automatically triggers a 911 call,” Fichter said.
With Indiana’s new law, women can have abortions only in cases of rape and incest, to protect the life and physical health of the patient, and only before 10 weeks after fertilization. The law also permits abortion if a fetus has a lethal abnormality.
If doctors perform an illegal abortion or fail to file required reports, they will lose their license to practice medicine.
Legal Battle Ahead
While the battle to end abortion seemed to have no end, the battle to reinstate it is just beginning. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed two lawsuits (pdf) to block Indiana’s abortion restrictions, both filed in Democrat strongholds—Marion County, home to the state capital Indianapolis, and in Monroe County, home to Indiana University.
The Marion County lawsuit, filed last week, was launched on behalf of a group calling itself Hoosier Jews for Choice. They say Indiana’s abortion restrictions interfere with their religious freedom, and violate Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). While some religions believe that human life begins at conception, this is not an opinion shared by all religions or all religious people, the ACLU of Indiana said in its lawsuit.
A hearing is scheduled for early next week for the Monroe County lawsuit.
“Indiana’s RFRA law protects religious freedom for all Hoosiers, not just those who practice Christianity,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk in a press release. “The ban on abortion will substantially burden the exercise of religion by many Hoosiers who, under the new law, would be prevented from obtaining abortions, in conflict with their sincere religious beliefs.”
Fichter said he has seen some dark times during his 30 years on the front lines, especially during the Clinton and Obama administrations, as well as in the Biden administration.
“I sometimes thought I might never see it happen in my lifetime. One of the great things about this movement is its grit and determination. Even when it’s discouraging, you keep working at it every day,” Fichter said.
The next chapter deals with winning hearts and minds.
“If we lose the culture, these will only be temporary gains,” Fichter said.
Sidewalk Advocates have found that some women forced to travel seem more willing to look at options other than abortion, Dye said.
“The initial feeling is gratitude. This came from work by many people, but more than that it’s an answer to prayers,” Dye said. “Now it’s more about reaching hearts, making abortion not just illegal but unthinkable.”