By Brigid Curtis Ayer
INDIANAPOLIS — As the Indiana General Assembly nears its mandated April 29 adjournment deadline, efforts by the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) to expand school choice; enhance child safety; improve regulations for abortion; and assist members of the immigrant community were among several legislative successes this year.
Hoosier families with school children will gain additional access to a school voucher. House Bill 1003, authored by State Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, includes access to a voucher for siblings of current voucher students to also be eligible to receive a scholarship and provides access to a voucher for children with special needs. Students who are income eligible can receive a voucher as early as kindergarten if their home school had received an “F” on its state report card. The bill increases the scholarship cap for elementary school students.
“The sibling component is important because it will allow access for families who are income eligible to have all their children in the same school building using a voucher rather than just one,” said Glenn Tebbe, ICC executive director. “While the kindergarten eligibility provides another entry point for income eligible students, it doesn’t provide the school choice model that we are aiming for. We believe all parents deserve the ability to send their children to the school of their choice. A failing school should not be a requirement. There is more work to be done, and we will continue to work toward providing parents and families a wider scope of access to vouchers.”
Another victory for families and children this year included the passage of a law to enhance childcare safety regulations. The bill, Senate Bill 305, authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would require childcare providers who receive childcare vouchers for low-income families to meet basic safety standards and provide age-appropriate learning opportunities. Holdman learned that some childcare providers in the state were registered as ministry childcare providers to become exempt from safety regulations, “but were doing so in name only.”
After visiting some of these providers, Holdman realized that the current law needed to address the problem. Holdman said the religious exemption was put in place to allow churches to provide care without having to meet the same stringent requirements as other licensed centers, primarily because most ministries are providing high quality care, and have their own safety standards in place.
Another legislative success for the ICC would require regulations for chemical abortions. Chemical abortion, commonly known as RU 486, now will be held to same regulatory standards as surgical abortion. The proposal, Senate Bill 371, also authored by Holdman, requires facilities that dispense abortion-inducing drugs to meet the same medical standards as those that provide surgical abortions. The proposal requires a doctor who prescribes the abortion-inducing drugs to examine the woman in person, and schedule follow-up care. It prohibits telemed practices where a doctor could use Skype to discuss options with the pregnant mother rather than an in person exam.
It changes Indiana’s informed consent law for abortion to include those seeking chemical abortion. It requires a woman seeking any type of abortion to see an ultrasound and hear fetal heart tones unless she certifies in writing that she declines. It requires the Indiana Department of Health to provide color illustrations, rather than black and white, showing fetal development stages for abortion centers to provide to abortion clients.
The bill specifically states that an abortion-inducing drug may not be administered to a woman after nine weeks and attaches criminal charges, a Class C felony, to any doctor who dispenses the drug after nine weeks.
“Bringing this type of abortion in-line with Indiana’s current informed consent law could make a big impact on the women considering abortion,” said Tebbe. “It is our hope that more will choose life. Having an ultrasound or seeing pictures of a developing baby, which is available as part of the informed consent may make the difference.”
A bill to grant undocumented college students access to in-state college tuition crossed the finish line and will become law July 1, before the classes resume in the fall of 2013. Senate Bill 207, authored by State Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, allows undocumented college students who were enrolled in college when the law took effect in 2011, to receive in-state college tuition. “While it is a small victory for those who are undocumented, it will certainly help those who were negatively impacted by the law and can move forward to complete college,” said Tebbe.
This year the ICC tracked over 150 bills all having a potential impact on the dignity of the human person, and the common good for families and children.
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