HB1337 Isn’t About Abortion: An Open Letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Even if you are a person who is adamantly anti abortion, read this. Then get mad. And then speak up. Women like me and families like mine need you to get mad then speak up. Because this is too far.

On March 15th, while most of us were watching primary results to see who our next president might be, Indiana passed HB1337, the single most restrictive abortion access law in the United States. Governor Mike Pence is expected to sign it. Here is a link to the law so that you may read and interpret it yourself. HB 1337, State of Indiana


Dear Governor Pence,

I’m not going to talk to you about the morality of abortion.  I do not judge you nor do I hope to change your mind from one side to the other. Instead, I am asking you and your fellow leaders, no matter your stance, nor opinion, nor religious conviction, nor political affiliation to please, PLEASE stand up for me and women like me.

You see, this law, if it was enacted in California prior to November 14th 2008, would have potentially been a death sentence for me. At best, I would have survived and been at risk of being a felon. Let me explain.

In November of 2008, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I was in California visiting friends. He flew out to see me. We celebrated. We made plans to tell our family and talked about nursery colors and names and we were so in love with our child.

The next evening I went to the ER because of acute abdominal pain. An ultrasound was performed. I heard the heatbeat. I saw our baby; our loved, very much wanted baby. A baby that was attached to the exterior of my uterus and my right fallopian tube.

I had no choice. This isn’t a story about choice, however.

I prayed. But this isn’t a story about faith.

I bargained. I begged. I cried.

I terminated my pregnancy.

But if this story happened in Indiana, my home state, it would end differently.

I didn’t have 18 hours. — a felony

I wanted to talk to my husband and talk to my doctor in Chicago. And so I didn’t give consent to terminate at the same time I was viewing the ultrasound. — potentially a felony.

The doctor didn’t have admitting privileges. As it was, I had gone to a Catholic hospital, the closest to me at the time, that had a policy of transferring non-emergency termination cases to a non-Catholic facility.* In my case, it was deemed that because I probably wouldn’t suffer a rupture and die within 8 hours, there was time to transfer me. So they did. To a doctor 2 hours away — the only one I could find who was available the next day. —  a felony.

Because of how early in the pregnancy the ectopic was discovered, I was not a candidate for a surgical termination. Instead, I was pumped full of methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, and monitored. Our baby died and I passed him or her naturally. The remains were not collected. — a  felony

I didn’t turn over the remains for cremation. — a felony.


In 2011 I became a repeat offender.

Much to our joy, we were expecting our second child, a boy. At a routine visit during my second trimester, it was discovered our baby’s heart had stopped. We were devastated. I had an outpatient procedure commonly referred to as a D&C. We gave consent for the remains of our son to be used for research and for a genetic panel to be ran so that we might determine why we were having reoccurring losses. The remains were taken across state lines for testing.   — a misdemeanor.**

We were not charged for the testing because we had donated the fetal tissue. A case could be made that was a form of financial compensation. — a felony.

The remains were not cremated. — a felony.

The testing revealed I carry a genetic defect in my eggs. The clinical description involved phrases like transmigration, fragile-X and trisome incompatible with life. It’s one that causes a horrific combination of birth defects which in all but a very rare number of cases, causes fetal death prior to the second trimester. In cases where a baby does make it to term, his or her life expectancy is hours at most and described as excruciatingly painful and traumatic for the infant.  This explained the miscarriages, and we considered IVF using eggs which had been pre-screened for the disorder.

Fortunately, we went on to have 2 more children, despite more losses that were almost certainly due to the defect in my eggs. I will admit to you that had a genetic panel come back positive for this defect, we would have elected to terminate the pregnancy. We would have done so out of love and compassion for our child and for the sake of my health. — a felony.

While the likelihood of this law actually being enacted prior to being thrown into court battles punctuated by protest marches is very low, it is still indicative of laws being made without thought nor compassion for women and families. It implies that women cannot be trusted to make decisions about their health. And it creates a legal environment where women like me are subject to prosecution for surviving what is a traumatic, grief-ridden, and emotional experience.

While this is my story, it is not rare. Please join me in standing against laws which criminalize women and their care providers for making decisions which are profoundly personal. No matter your stance on abortion, know that these laws do not decrease the number of abortions performed. These laws do nothing but reduce access to medical care and increase political soundbites. Call on our government leaders to be thoughtful and deliberate, not political and rash. Hold them to a higher standard. Our sisters’ and daughters’ lives depend on it.

Angela Fellars

*This letter is not a comment on Catholic hospital policy. While I do not prefer the hospital’s policy, I both understand and respect it, and do not wish to engage in a debate about religious freedom.

**The law is unclear on whether this would fall under an autopsy exception.  If this was considered fetal tissue to be used for research, then it is listed as a misdemeanor. If it is an autopsy, then it is not. While I’m not an attorney, the definition of autopsy “A highly specialized surgical procedure that consists of a thorough examination of a corpse to determine the cause and manner of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present.” doesn’t seem to be an accurate description of genetic panels taken from small tissue samples.



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Published on: March 17, 2016

Filled Under: From the Desk of WTMother

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