Quakers lobby at Statehouse special session

Photo: Several hundred citizens representing both sides of the abortion issue attend the first special session hoping to share their voices as the legislature creates language for new law.

 As a faith-based organization, IFCL engages in lobbying with a bipartisan approach. Unlike lobbyists who work for special interest groups with money, Quakers work to influence by sharing information and generating discussion of issues that will create positive legislation that serves all Hoosiers.

One can lobby through phone calls, letters and emails, but one of the most effective ways is to physically go to the Statehouse and meet with legislators personally. It is also one of the most frightening for many people to consider.

Even those whose lives have included successful interaction with people individually or in large groups find the Statehouse a challenge. Ascending the giant staircase, going through security, meeting face-to-face with a legislator, or testifying in one of the chambers for the side of an issue that may not be popular—all can be daunting.

Several people representing IFCL attended the Statehouse rally Monday, July 25, hoping to influence legislators to generate discussion and avoid rushing a bill that might have lasting negative consequences for individuals and Indiana as a whole.

Mary Blackburn shares reflections on that experience below.

July 25,2022

First Amendment rights were on full display at the Indiana Statehouse.  Thousands of citizens surrounded the Statehouse waiting patiently in line to pass through security to let their voices be heard. A Pentecostal preacher had set up his loudspeaker and a praise band denounced prochoice activists while praising God in song and tongues.  Pro-choice women surrounded the band and held up their signs supporting women’s rights to self-autonomy.

Several of the major intersections were closed to vehicular traffic and IMPD were at each intersection while state troopers were outside major entrances to the building. Across Senate Boulevard, uniformed personnel three stories up, maintained a careful watch over the activities below. A sparse network of abortion ban advocates roamed the crowd, bullhorn in hand, casually saying, “Abortion is murder” and moved several yards before saying the same phrase over again. Occasionally you would hear someone confronting the other side of opinion, but not often.

Both the east and west entrances to the Statehouse were extremely busy with the lines overlapping and crossing each other on Washington Street. Periodically, someone would lead a chant that would continue for a while until it faded, and another would begin.

There were no speeches on the lawn for the 11:30 a.m. rally. Several of us tried to listen to Vice President Harris’s press conference on our phones, but the noise and crowd made it difficult to hear. After standing outside in line on the hard concrete sidewalk, we finally entered the building. Some people were leaving as the speeches were already over and the session had moved to testimony on the second floor. Here the chanting was deafening, and the state troopers were trying to create some order for the people waiting in line to testify. 

A couple of us went to the House of Representatives office and left messages for our representatives to express our views that reproductive choice needs to remain legal. We saw several candidates for state elections who were supportive of Roe.

An interesting irony for me was seeing the eight pillars in the rotunda.  Atop the columns were figures to represent essential elements of Indiana life.  Agriculture (female), art (female), justice (female), commerce (female), liberty (female), history (female), law (male), oratory (male).   Women’s rights should win by a 6 to 2 majority based on the symbolism and yet it does not.

I left the People’s House wondering how much our elected representatives would represent me and other women. But I felt at peace that I had showed up and respectfully carried my sign and voiced my concern.