May 6, 2011


Successful legislative session

Congratulations to the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) and its Legislative Action Center for its accomplishments during this year’s legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly.

As that session began in January, Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director, told The Criterion, “Among our priority issues to assist families and children this year, we will be working with state lawmakers to create legislation to further reduce abortion, improve school choice opportunities for all Hoosier children and pass a same-sex marriage ban.”

The ICC met those goals.

He also told The Criterion back in January that he expected “some potentially negative consequences affecting those in our immigrant community.” That is because of a bill that would have emulated the crackdown on illegal immigration that Arizona enacted. The ICC and its allies managed to strip the provisions in that bill that would have required local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws. This, too, was a success.

The ICC’s goal of helping to pass “legislation to further reduce abortion” was achieved with the passage of a bill that cuts off state Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood and imposes the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. Gov. Mitch Daniels was expected to sign the bill into law this week.

The Criterion will publish an ICC wrap-up article about the legislative session in our May 13 issue.

We also editorialized about the Pence Amendment, which would have cut off funding for Planned Parenthood at the federal level, in our March 4 issue. That amendment, which passed the House of Representatives, didn’t survive the compromise that resulted in the passage of the national budget for the current fiscal year. However, what wasn’t achieved at the national level was accomplished by the Indiana General Assembly.

The bill that was passed arguably makes Indiana the most pro-life state in the nation. Unless it is struck down by the courts, it prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, requires a woman to view an ultrasound of her unborn child before her abortion unless she refuses, and requires a doctor to tell patients that abortion is linked to infertility and that a fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks. The pregnant woman must also be told that support is available to any woman who declines to have an abortion.

This bill was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly. There were, however, Catholic legislators who voted against it. We fail to understand how any Catholic with a well-formed conscience could vote to grant money to an organization that provides abortions. Any good things that organization does cannot compare with the act of killing human beings.

All Planned Parenthood would have to do to continue to receive funding would be to stop performing abortions. Besides, Planned Parenthood will not go out of business without state funding.

There are also alternatives to Planned Parenthood’s family planning services in every Indiana county— 150 clinics overall.

The ICC’s goal of improving school choice opportunities was met with the passage of a law that would award families that qualify for free and reduced lunches at schools to receive up to 90 percent of the tuition cost for their children to attend a private school of the parent’s choice.

This is a win for all qualifying families. It is not a Church-state issue. It is true that many of those families will elect to send their children to Catholic schools, but that is a choice which wealthier families have always had.

Those who object to Catholic schools receiving public scholarships claim that it is taking money away from public schools. There seems to be no recognition of the amount of money that Catholic schools save taxpayers by virtue of the fact that families with children in Catholic schools pay the same taxes as those with children in public schools, yet they receive none of the benefits.

The total cost of operating archdiocesan Catholic schools—not including private schools, such as Cathedral High School or Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, both in Indianapolis—is estimated at $100 million a year. Since public schools are more expensive to operate than Catholic schools, that translates to an estimated savings to Indiana taxpayers of around $214 million a year.

The ICC also hoped to help pass a same-sex marriage ban. That, too, was accomplished with a resolution to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriages and civil unions.

Another separately elected legislature will have to pass the resolution then it will have to be approved by voters in a referendum. Meanwhile, a state law prohibits gay marriages.

We again congratulate the ICC for its successes during the spring 2011 legislative session.

—John F. Fink

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