Liz Carter, left, and Ben Ice, right, were part of a crowd that protested outside of Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ office on Sept. 2. Photo by Gabi Morando.
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“It’s a problem when we’re allowing children to continue to die when we work so hard to pass a law,” Ben Ice, Great Lakes regional coordinator for Students for Life of America, said while protesting on the sidewalk in front of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. “It is [Ryan Mears’] job as a prosecutor to prosecute on the law that the people pass.”
Ice and representation from various other anti-abortion groups, including Butler’s Bulldogs for Life, took a stand against Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears on Saturday, Sept. 2, after an abortion clinic employee offered an illegal chemical abortion to an undercover reporter.
Mears is one of over 80 prosecutors and district attorneys across the country, and the only prosecutor in Indiana, who signed a pledge to not press charges against providers or patients over abortion. The statement by Fair and Just Prosecution was released on June 24, a little over a month before a sweeping ban on almost all abortions took effect in Indiana on Aug. 1.
Senate Enrolled Act 1 only permits abortions to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant woman, if the fetus suffers from a lethal fetal anomaly or if the person carrying the child has been a victim of rape or incest.
Just one day after SEA1 went into effect, Clifton French, a reporter for REAL News Michiana (RNM), a platform that caters news to a conservative audience, called Indianapolis-based Clinic for Women posing as an eight-week pregnant transgender man. French attempted to schedule an appointment to confirm whether the clinic was closing or not.
Instead, the woman who French talked to, who RNM has identified to be 57-year-old Bridget Bridgeforth, took down his information and promised to call back.
“At home, at my house, I got everything you need,” Bridgeforth said on the recording. “ … Everything you was going to get at the office, I got it at home … This is strictly between me and you now … we’re not supposed to be doing this. I’m not supposed to be doing this because it’s illegal.”
Liz Carter, a senior music education major and social media chair for Bulldogs for Life, said that regardless of what it is about, anyone who breaks a law should be prosecuted.
“What is the point of having laws if we’re not going to uphold them?” Carter said. “We put so much effort into trying to produce [SEA1], and then we’re not going to prosecute it when things are blatantly being broken at the potential cost of people’s lives.”
Bridgeforth has a record that dates back to 1995 including charges of theft and possession of both marijuana and cocaine. Activists at the protest questioned why Clinic for Women hired Bridgeforth in the first place considering her criminal record.
“[SEA1] is in place to protect the pre-born,” Severson said. “The law’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. All life is precious at the moment it’s created — it’s a valuable human being … This law is meant to protect them, [but] if you have illegal abortions happening, not only are the women not getting to the resources that can help them and the child, it’s also potentially harming the mother because [the abortions are] not [happening] in a safe environment.”
Indiana is one of 15 states that have either almost or completely banned abortions. Seven additional states have bans in place past a certain gestational period.
Kiara Somerville, a senior computer science and economics double major, is the president of the Gender Equity Movement (GEM). Somerville said she and GEM both feel that all people deserve the right to have an abortion and access to healthcare in any way they choose. She said the incident between French and Bridgeforth sheds light on the need that still exists for abortion access in Indiana.
“I don’t have an articulate way of saying it, but [SEA1] sucks,” Somerville said. “It sucks for healthcare workers and the people they work to help. Although I don’t necessarily support doing illegal things, this does show that there is such a need that people have possibly been calling [abortion clinics], having nowhere else to turn to, nowhere else to go.”
According to court documents, Bridgeforth has a warrant out for her arrest for failure to appear on a possession of marijuana case. As of now, she has not been charged with any abortion-related crimes.
“It is [a prosecutor’s job to prosecute], and when they don’t do that, that’s an issue,” Carter said. “It can set a precedent for other laws that if I just don’t like this law, I don’t have to enforce it, and that can be dangerous.”