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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 02, 2016 10:02 pm

Indiana's giant stride for human rights

Dr. Andrew J. Mullalley

I would like to applaud Gov. Mike Pence for signing House Enrolled Act 1337 into law. This legislation is valuable, and it is fundamentally consistent with our American principles in that it protects the civil rights of all of our citizens by specifically outlawing discrimination based on race, gender, or disability.

While some may suggest that discrimination in the abortion industry does not exist, the evidence would suggest otherwise. They say the abortion industry does not target race, but we know that is not true. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to document the epidemic of abortions among black Americans. Data show that despite the fact that the black population makes up only 13.6 percent of the general population, black abortions account for 37.6 percent of all abortions performed in America. The vast majority of abortion clinics are located in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Despite this clear disparity, there is a relative paucity of outrage in the black community. It is useful to consider these statistics in light of the ire drawn from recent high-profile cases of violence against members in the black community who have already been born. While there were 6,454 black murder victims in 2012, there were 148,971 black victims of abortion. By far and away, the most dangerous place in this country for a black American to be is in the womb. By Pence signing this bill into law, and it passing with an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly, Indiana states without a doubt that black lives matter.

They say the abortion industry does not target gender, but we know that is not true. This new law will protect women from sex-selective abortions which are exceedingly common in many parts of the world, especially in East and South Asian countries. In these countries, most notably China and India, many prefer males to females and thus abort female babies. By passing this law and ensuring that this practice does not find a foothold in Indiana, Hoosiers stand for the dignity of all women, including the pre-born.

They say the abortion industry does not target those with disabilities, but we know that is not true. Research shows across several studies that the majority of Down syndrome babies are aborted. With this law Indiana becomes only the second state to ban abortions targeting babies with physical disabilities. I am especially proud of this protection because I am a physician. As a family physician, I have the opportunity to work with not only expectant mothers and fathers, but with babies before and after birth. It has been my honor to care for many patients with special needs whose peers would have been protected by this law. These individuals are valuable members of our society by nature of their humanity. They are due the dignity and respect owed to every human life.

Many opponents of civil rights protection for those with disabilities adopt a purely utilitarian opinion, stating that these lives are “not worth living,” and that they have no “quality of life.” However, as indicated by a 2011 study, 99 percent of those with Down syndrome rated their lives as happy. This satisfaction is likely much higher than their able-bodied counterparts.

This law is of particular importance to me as I am the father of a child with cerebral palsy. This is a condition where my son suffered a stroke in utero and now has a permanent neurologic impairment. In my extended family as well, there are relatives with autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. These loved ones and my patients with disabilities teach me more about being a good doctor than can be learned from any books or lectures. These individuals personify kindness and serve as an example to us all about what it means to be a human being.

It is our duty as Americans and particularly my duty as a physician to protect these individuals who are the most vulnerable and cannot speak for themselves. The signing of this bill states unequivocally that Indiana is a place where discrimination is not acceptable for anyone – especially the most defenseless Hoosiers. While it is heartbreaking to think of how many innocents have been discriminated against because of their race, gender or disability, I am proud that my state is going to protect the God-given right to life for these people in the future.