I have been incredibly angry with my elected officials recently. I’m a progressive feminist living in a very conservative state, so that’s no big surprise, but it’s gotten to the point where I don’t feel safe or welcome in my home state anymore. This year the legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. It also passed a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood of Indiana, prohibit abortion before 20 weeks, and provide women seeking abortions medically inaccurate information. The bill is awaiting Gov. Mitch Daniels’ approval or veto. Most people expect him to sign it. I called his office Thursday to express my displeasure, but his aide said he wasn’t taking comments, just a poll on whether you support or oppose the bill. I let her know I oppose it, then went to the Indiana government’s website where I submitted this comment electronically:
Dear Gov. Daniels:
I would like to be writing to congratulate you on all of the jobs you created for Hoosiers this legislative session. However, to my knowledge, not one bill was passed related to reducing unemployment. Instead, Republicans focused on dismantling unions and taking away women’s health care.
Veto HB 1210. If you sign this bill you will be legislating medically inaccurate information to women. You will be telling women your politics are more important than their health. You will be telling poor women and men you don’t care that they won’t have access to quality medical treatment. You will be making me afraid of living here because my legislators care more about fetuses than they do about me. I was born and raised in Indiana but the hate-filled bills that have passed this legislature make me ashamed to be a Hoosier. I will be looking for a new job this summer, and I will not be looking in Indiana because I don’t want my tax dollars to support anti-women, anti-family, anti-LGBT officials and policies.
Veto HB 1210.
Molly (last name)
I know a lot of people have never called their representatives to express their opinion. I hadn’t done it before I moved back to Indiana from Kentucky in 2008. But the way you should look at it is giving an employee a performance review. Your representatives work for you. You vote for them and pay their salary. If you don’t approve of the way they do their job, you can vote them out of office. Letting your opinion be known doesn’t have any consequences. You often have to give your name and contact information, but that doesn’t mean you will be getting fliers in the mail or fundraising appeals. And the aides are generally nice, even if they aren’t always helpful. (I’ve found the office in D.C. is usually more up-to-date on votes and the issues than the local office.)
However, I have had trouble getting a response from Rep. Joe Donnelly’s office. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood on Feb. 18. I called D.C. that same day and asked for a written explanation of that vote. I wanted to know what his thinking could possibly be that he thought it was a good idea to deny poor men and women quality health care for which there are no alternatives. His office assured me they would e-mail me the explanation. Two weeks went by with no response, so I called again because I wasn’t sure how long such a request would take to fulfill. Again, I was told the explanation was on its way. Another two weeks, another call, no response. This has gone on for more than two months. I finally got the name of one of the aides, and Thursday I called again and he answered the phone. I let him know in no uncertain terms how disappointed I was and that I felt like I was being brushed off. He said Rep. Donnelly doesn’t support federal funding for abortion or abortion-related services. I informed him that was not an adequate answer because Planned Parenthood does not receive federal funding for abortion, so what Donnelly voted against was birth control, cancer screenings and STD testing.
Donnelly is a Catholic Democrat, and he might be part of the fringe minority that considers birth control an abortifacient in opposition to conventional medical practice. If he does, I wish he would just come out and say that. However, support for birth control, even among Catholics, is stronger than support for abortion, so it’s more dangerous politically to come out against contraceptives than abortion. The truth is, I’m guessing at his motives because I don’t know why he voted to defund PP: if he opposes it because it provides abortions; if he opposes birth control; if he opposes family planning. I was hoping I would get a clue once he sent me the explanation, even if I didn’t agree with it. But it’s been months since my first request. I let the aide know I would keep calling until I got the e-mail I asked for, so it would be in his best interest to expedite the explanation.
I don’t expect that my comments change any of my representatives’ minds on major issues. However, if they don’t hear from their constituents they might think there is support for their votes when there is not. I feel better having my stance on the record, whether it affects my representatives’ opinions or not.
You can contact your U.S. representatives by going here and entering your ZIP code. The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121; give your representative’s or senator’s name and be connected to her or his office. Here is the page to contact senators. You can submit comments to the White House here or by calling 202-456-1111. USA.gov has a page that allows you to contact U.S. or state officials.