CARMEL – The bags of mail delivered to U.S. Rep. Elwood H. “Bud” Hillis’ 5th Congressional District office were enormous and plentiful. The day had come for the anticipated arrival of the responses to Hillis’ 1974 constituent survey.  

Each of us who worked for the congressman looked around the room at each other and wondered who would get stuck with the huge job of hand collating and tabulating the poll results.  I was only 21 years old at the time, but I didn’t need to look around the room to know that myself and another intern, occupying the lowest rung of the office ladder, would be tasked with the laborious job.  

There were several interesting proposals on the survey, but the one which grabbed my attention were a couple of questions regarding the issue of abortion.

The first question on the issue addressed the 1973 U. S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade and the protection of abortion enabled by the Court’s decision. As I tallied up the responses to the question of “Do you support the Supreme Court’s decision to establish a woman’s right to receive an abortion?” (This was the crux of the question, but the exact wording may have been a little different.) 

I was not surprised that a narrow margin of constituents in the 5th District did not favor the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. After all, Indiana is a conservative state, and the 5th District was one of the most conservative in the state.  What else would you expect?

The second question on the issue provided a little more surprising response. The question asked some thing to the effect of, “Would you support legislation banning abortion except in circumstances of rape, incest, defective fetus or life of the mother?”  

The results on this question provided a substantial majority who would support the legislation. I believe these results were above 70%. It was notable to me that it was rare back in 1974, just as it is today, to get 70% or better agreement on any political issue. It struck me that here was an issue that might have grounds for compromise. 

Oh, foolish me!

I admit that as a soon-to-be college senior, my interests in life revolved more around the pursuit of happiness than it did around the relative merits of a woman’s right to control her own body versus the rights of the unborn. The issue had never touched me or anyone in my family that I knew, so I just didn’t have much of an opinion.

As the years rolled on and I more frequently engaged in political combat, I was forced to give the issue of abortion quite a bit of thought.  Unfortunately, my deliberation on the subject was more along the lines of how I could use the issue to raise political contributions and garner 50 plus percent of the vote in an election.  

I’m not proud of this fact, but I was just a small cog in the political philosophy espoused in Kevin B. Phillips’ 1966 book, “The Emerging Republican Majority.” 

Phillips rightly predicted that a majority of voters could be cobbled around the issue of pro-life. Many ethnic groups, including Hispanics, were strongly pro-life Catholics and by using the issue as a wedge, these pro-lifers could be converted to Republican pro-lifers.  

Through my years of political campaigns, I found our pro-life Republicans to be our most reliable voters and supporters. The majority of these Republicans weren’t looking to affect any sort of political compromise. Their goal was to change the Supreme Court and smash Roe v. Wade to smithereens.

So now, after nearly 50 years as decided, yet eternally disputed, law, the United States Supreme Court has overruled Roe v Wade and set the wheels in motion for significant political and social upheaval.  

The good people of Indiana are soon to get a very up close and personal encounter with the issue and the many good intentioned people and organizations rallying their supporters on both sides of the issue. The salient point of the Supreme Court decision was not whether or not abortion should be legal or illegal. The court made its 6-3 decision on whether the 1973 decision was constitutional or not. The current court ruled that the court in 1973 abused its judicial authority. Before you get up in arms about the nefarious Republican plot, Democrat appointed justice Byron White, in 1973, wrote a dissenting opinion to Roe v. Wade declaring the same abuse of judicial authority.  

Before we go any further, any of you who are running around saying that the Supreme Court outlawed abortions are just uninformed or overdosed on MSNBC.  The U. S. Supreme Court just clearly stated by a 6-3 majority that the issue was one to be decided by the public and their duly elected representatives. 

July 25 is the date when our duly elected state representatives and state senators will meet in special session to decide what to do with our state’s budget surplus and what to do about abortion. The issues may seem unrelated, but they shouldn’t be.

I have wrestled with this question of abortion for so many years, that it was always kind of comforting to know I could just say that I was against abortion and know that the 1973 Court could be blamed for its existence. Our current court has removed this security blanket and for me and countless others, we will soon need to make decisions and advocate for a belief that will have real consequences.  I have never publicly stated my personal belief on the issue of abortion, but in this column I will do so.

On matters of personal liberty, I have always tried to support the principle that your rights stop where my rights begin. What a person does in the privacy of their own home is their own business. You have the right to ban guns on your premises, but that right does not extend to my property. You have the right to love who you want or marry anyone you want. You don’t have the right to advocate a particular lifestyle to my children in a public school.  A man has a right to be transexual if they wish, but they have no right to compete against genetic women.  

The issue of abortion is a bit tougher to deal with on my part. I believe that a woman or young girl should not have to have a baby if she becomes pregnant through an act of rape or incest. I believe that the life of the mother is paramount to the life of the unborn. I believe that a mother who has been informed by a physician that her child suffers from severe defects should be allowed to make a decision whether to abort or not. I believe that these should be the rights afforded to women who become pregnant. I further believe that abortion should not become a substitute for birth control and that an unborn fetus is a living being to be protected.

There, I said it.  Abortion advocates will hate me for this, and pro-life advocates will dislike me as well. I acknowledge that my position is self-conflicted, but rarely are substantive issues cut and dried.

I have an inkling that the Indiana Legislature will be more restrictive with decisions made during their special session in regard to abortion. I will not try to speculate on the final legislative outcome, but I will say that the Republican dominated will be under immense pressure to take the most restrictive abortion position that is possible.  Their key supporters and financiers will accept nothing less than a complete ban on abortion. The legislative squad advocating this position may just be too powerful to publicly stop.  

Back to my point that the issue of abortion and what to do with the budget surplus may be interrelated. If the Indiana Legislature votes to eliminate or virtually eliminate abortions, I believe that they have an absolute moral obligation to provide adequate funding for just about every child related program in the state, including healthcare, education and criminal justice.  

There should be no distribution of surplus funds to the taxpayers. If we advocate that all conceived babies be born, we must make sure that the funds are there to support the babies after they are born, from the cradle to the grave. Current funding for children with special needs, foster care programs, adoption programs, early education, group homes and infant nutrition programs are currently below their needed levels.  The Legislature needs to address children with the same intensity that they do road construction. Now that would be something!

To the Indiana Legislature and Gov. Holcomb, I make a simple plea; if you love babies, both born and unborn, please make sure that state funding shows that you care.  

Dunn is the former Howard County Republican chairman.