La PORTE — Along with the snowy winds whipping through downtown La Porte on Saturday were screams and chants against Indiana House Bill 1337, which increases the regulation surrounding abortions.
Gov. Mike Pence signed HB-1337 into law on March 24, making Indiana the second state to ban abortion if it is sought because the fetus was found with a disability or defect such as Down syndrome.
The first state to ban this type of abortion was North Dakota in 2013.
The ban will also disallow the abortion if the decision is based on sex or race of the fetus, and the law requires all fetal remains to be buried or cremated, instead of being treated like medical waste.
Physicians who perform the abortions, while knowing of the woman’s reasons, could face disciplinary actions or civil liability for wrongful death.
Jared Gracia-West, District Two Chair of the Indiana Young Democrats, helped organize Northwest Indiana’s rally.
There was also a rally for human rights on Saturday at the Indiana State House. West said he and other members of the Young Democrats decided to have a rally in La Porte for those in the northern regions of the state.
The rally was publicized through Facebook, attracting many community members who believe the law goes beyond pro-life or pro-choice.
They gathered on the sidewalks surrounding the La Porte County Courthouse at noon, determined to make people aware of the bill, which they said was destroying basic human rights.
West and men and women from across the region held signs that read, “FIRE PENCE,” “#Pro-Choice” and “Private uterus, not for sale.”
“This rally goes far beyond the pro-choice, pro-life argument,” West said in an email statement. “They first attacked the Union, and then the LGTB community with the religious freedom act and made Indiana look extremely unwelcoming and now they are going after women. Who is next on their extremist agenda?”
West and his companions agreed Pence and the 97 state legislators who signed the bill are violating human rights and pushing their belief on the women of the state.
In La Porte County, it has been acknowledged by several people, particularly the candidates running for the La Porte County government positions, how difficult it is to be a Democrat in the county.
However, West believes it may finally be changing.
“I think more people are changing their minds here and in November we will definitely become blue again,” he said. “People are tired of the Republicans we have in Indiana.”
On the other side of the sidewalk were protestors against the rally.
Co-ordinated the by St. Joseph of Arimathea House, an Orthodox Church, located at 402 Niesen St., participants came from La Porte County Right to Life, St. Joseph County Right to Life, the Apostolate of Divine Mercy in South Bend, Abolish Human Abortion of Indiana and also included some unaffiliated individuals.
Father Jim Rosselli said he and the “pro-lifers” of La Porte just found out about the rally on Friday.
On Saturday they held their own signs along the courthouse, displaying their beliefs that all lives matter and thanking the community who voted for Pence.
Rosselli said he was pleased with the turnout, despite the weather, and said the group was planning on staying out a couple of hours to oppose the rally.
The voice of Georgia Hatfield, 49, of La Porte, rang out above the others. She is a single mother with one son. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree and owns the Fox Art Gallery in Lake Station.
“I am a working mom and trying to get a second job,” she said. “I cannot get daycare for my son and I have had to use food pantries. I love my son, and it was my choice to have him, but it is hard.”
Hatfield spoke more about the Indiana legislator’s goal of trying to control women by taking away their right to make their own choices.
“Why do they have the right to tell me what to do with my body?” she asked.
Alisha Stoewer agreed, saying the laws are affecting all women, but fall the heaviest on those in poverty or are causing women and families to be in poverty for having a child who they cannot afford.
“They think you are lazy because you can’t afford things like daycare or have to go to food stamps and (use) pantries,” she said.
Hatfield and Stoewer agreed the next thing to be affected by the state officials is healthcare regarding women’s issues and birth control.
“When that happens, we will have an even bigger problem,” Stoewer added.
For the next few hours, voices rang out trying to show the beliefs they stood for in regards to the HB-1337. For some, it was down to pro-life or pro-choice, but for most it was more than that.
“I am not here to say abortions are right,” Stoewer said. ‘I am here to say women have a right to make that choice.”