This conversation has been edited for length, clarity and flow.

Many Indiana companies say a near-total abortion ban is bad for the economy — are lawmakers convinced? Most listened seven years ago when businesses said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, discriminated against LGBTQ communities and the state backed down. Do pro-abortion rights views have the same power now? WFYI’s Emilie Syberg spoke with Indiana State Bureau of Public Broadcasting Chief Brandon Smith to compare the political moments.

WFYI reporter Emilie Syberg: So let’s go back to March 26, 2015. Then-Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, into law. Then, tell us what happened.

IPB News State Bureau Chief Brandon Smith: Indiana went crazy for about a week exactly. Reporters at the State House, including myself, had covered RFRA leading up to Governor Mike Pence’s signature. And there had been some testimony that we heard in committees that opposed it, particularly from the ACLU, pointing out that it could be used to justify discrimination especially against the LGBTQ community. So of course there were dissenting voices. But we didn’t see rallies — we didn’t see, you know, big reactions to the bill before the governor signed it. But then he signed it on Thursday. And it was a private ceremony. But he did it with a bunch of religious leaders, and especially with leaders of conservative political groups, religious political groups in Indiana. And that kind of started the really negative attention to the law in Indiana for that next week. And then over the weekend, initially just after it was signed on Friday and Saturday, you started to hear more voices of dissent from the business community in particular. I think there was a rally at the State House, though not with the intensity we’ve seen in the past on issues like the right to work or read in the ED or the abortion ban debate. But then, Mike Pence went on this week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning to talk about this new law. So obviously, the fact that it was even happening is a signal that it was starting to get more attention. But Mike Pence went ahead with the goal, certainly from his perspective, of allaying the business community’s fears about what the law could do and what many Republican leaders felt was a misunderstanding of the law. They did not see it as a means of discrimination. They said no, this is a commonly used legal remedy. It had been in federal law for almost two decades, I think, by the time Indiana passed [it], and it is simply a test that judges must use when evaluating a law or regulation to say – does it burden a person’s faith? Mike Pence went on George Stephanopoulos and George asked him directly, you know, can this law be used to discriminate against gay people? And Pence simply wouldn’t answer the question. It was, I think it’s fair to say, a pretty disastrous performance. And that really started the uproar over this law, and about that next week. So until Mike Pence signed the so-called “fix,” literally a week after signing the law in the first place — there was just an intensity in the Statehouse that I’ve never quite seen in that form. It was the business community, it was lawmakers who were inundated with messages from leaders around the world. And I’ve never seen, we haven’t seen anything like this in the last decade or so.

Syberg: So businesses weighed in heavily on the RFRA issue. So why is abortion different?

Smith: I mean, you’d have to ask those businesses, I guess. For many, I don’t think it is. Certainly there are, perhaps, stronger dividing lines on the issue of abortion as far as the general public is concerned. And some companies may not want to risk, if you will, upsetting a certain – what they perceive as a larger base of people opposing an abortion ban or something like that. It’s also not that clear, I think right now, what the abortion ban is going to do to affect businesses in being able to attract and retain talent in Indiana, you know, at the time of RFRA. And again, the focus is on the LGBTQ community, I think that was a national moment where Indiana stood out. And it was a moment where all of a sudden, people in that community had gotten a lot more rights than they ever had before. That happened quickly, of course, especially with gay marriage, which is what helped — frankly — start the RFRA debate here in Indiana. But I think as part of that, there’s been a general consensus in the business community that we can’t do anything to alienate this community. I don’t think that seems to be as true for abortion, surprisingly — if only because it would appear to be a much larger group of the population that has big problems with abortion bans, certainly from all the public polls that we ‘ we’ve seen on this issue, both in Indiana and across the country. I think the other thing that might be different about it is Indiana is the first since the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to enact a new abortion ban. This debate is taking place across the country in many states and will play out in many state legislatures over the next several months, and especially once the new year begins.

Syberg: So what is likely to happen, or could happen, with new abortion legislation under our current lawmakers?

Smith: Yes, I would say the legislature has become more conservative since RFRA. In 2015, sure, if you had a Republican supermajority then, but I think they’ve gotten more conservative over the last half decade. So that would suggest to me—and also we’ve seen evidence in other areas, though none as divisive as abortion—but we’ve seen evidence in other areas where the Republicans in the State House don’t care, frankly, what the deal is. . community thinking when it comes to social issues. So you had businesses opposing the gun license bill that allows everyone to carry without a license. Clearly, that didn’t stop the bill. Even their polls, legitimate polls of Republican lawmakers said this was not popular with their constituents. They didn’t care that it was ideologically driven, and I think it’s very similar to abortion. So I think this legislature is less responsive to the public and the business community than it was five or six years ago on social issues like abortion or guns.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *