indiana

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"Meeting with President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev" by the Kremlin is licensed under Creative Commons (via Google Images)

For the second year in a row, Indiana legislators have introduced and advanced a bill that aims to raise the consumer taxes on cigarettes. In the nation, Indiana ranks 37th for the price of a pack of cigarettes, with the tax on a pack of cigarettes at less than $1. Though during the 2016 General Assembly a bill that targeted cigarettes and gasoline did not pass, H.B. 1578 is on track to make it to the governor’s table. Not only does H.B. 1578 raise cigarette taxes by $1.50, but it also aims to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. Though nobody advocates for the harmful side effects that cigarettes cause to personal and community health, what are the ethics of increasing taxes on a consumer product that is used more heavily by the poor?

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"Indiana Statehouse" by Noah Coffey is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Every year, thousands of bills are written and proposed during Indiana’s legislative session. The Indiana General Assembly takes place during the first few months of the year, and is a chance for state representatives to advance their agenda. Many Americans pay more attention to what happens at the federal level, but state and local government also has a large influence on the lives of citizens.The 2017 session, Jan 3 through April 29, is taking place during a budget year, and in the wake of an extremely contentious and important state and national election. Legislation authored this session ranges from bills that deregulate environmental protection to resolutions aimed at honoring professional athletes. However, one bill that has not gained much attention raises many ethical concerns in regards to criminal justice and the prison system.

"Indiana Harbor" by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District is licensed under Public domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

The small Indiana town of East Chicago sits roughly 25 miles southeast of downtown Chicago. In late July, East Chicago’s mayor and the Environmental Protection Agency began informing residents that their soil had been contaminated with lead since at least 2014. But it was only a few weeks ago that the city began the process of evacuating nearly 1200 residents out of their housing complexes. The reason for this evacuation coincides with the rich industrial history of East Chicago: the smelting of lead.

"Photo a day project: February 2006" by Jenny Lee Silver via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Atlantic published an article titled “Sex Ed Without the Sex” this past week by writer Olga Khazen. In that article, Khazen traced current sexual education practices in the city of Odessa, Texas. Odessa represents the widely used ideology of current sex ed courses throughout the United States, which is laden with conservative, Phyllis Schlafly-esque teachings. At this time, only 13 states require sex ed lessons to include medically accurate facts, while less than half actually require sex ed to be taught in school.

"Indiana State House; Indianapolis, IN; 2006" by Jasont82 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a new bill that [p]rohibits a person from performing an abortion if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because of: (1) the race, color, national origin, ancestry, or sex of the fetus; or (2) a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability. After discovering through genetic testing that their unborn child may have a disability,women will be unable to receive an abortion legally. Pence referred to the law as a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life.

The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery by conservators of the Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Public Domain)

In the basement of my house, the walls are covered with history. Shelves backed against the faux-wood paneled walls are lined with studies on Nixon, several histories on London, biographies on FDR, a history of Soviet Russia, California’s oranges, and an entire row of green cloth books depicting U.S. history from the French wilderness to WWI.

Marijuana by noexcusesradio (CC0 Public Domain)

When the authors of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed it into law, marijuana churches were probably the last things on their mind. Yet, only a few months after the act’s passing, Indiana’s First Church of Cannabis has been established. Existing under the freedoms established by RFRA, the church operates on principles of “love, respect, equality and compassion,” with marijuana as its official sacrament. While many have cast it as a joke or a political statement against RFRA, the church also raises a number of questions about how the government can and should interact with organized religion.

As if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act wasn’t controversial enough, Indiana is the setting for another story that hits right at the heart of social policy debates that have come to grip American politics. Purvi Patel,  from Mishawaka, IN, has just been charged with feticide and neglect of a dependent. She is the first person to be convicted and sentenced for feticide.

Her conviction could have a major role in shaping the future of abortion policy in the state of Indiana. Patel used abortion drugs she purchased online to terminate her pregnancy it its 24th week. She claims that soon after she delivered a stillborn fetus at home, and after which she sought treatment at a hospital for loss of blood. Questioned and detained at the hospital, prosecutors were ruthless in setting an example of Patel, asking for a 40-year sentence of which Patel would ultimately get 20.

This case presents a number of ethical questions that we must confront, and represents a new direction in the abortion debate. As pointed out in an article by Jessica Glenza at The Guardian, this is an entirely novel application of the feticide laws than were originally intended for the prosecution of a third party in harming an unborn child. As stated by attorney Katherine Jack, “If it’s appealed and upheld, [the conviction] basically sets a precedent that anything a pregnant woman does that could be interpreted as an attempt to terminate her pregnancy could result in criminal liability.” Also, medical experts warn that prosecuting mothers that seek medical care after these sorts of incidents could scare away others that need help because they may be afraid they will also be prosecuted.

On the other hand, Indiana prosecutors argue that Patel was guilty of murder, as a medical examiner testified that the infant was alive at the time of birth, in direct contention with a medical witness from the defense. You can read the full summary of the case from the investigating detective here.

When looking at this case we must ask ourselves, was justice served? How should these sorts of desperation abortions be handled? Should this case be viewed as murder, or woman’s choice?