I’ve posted previously about Indiana’s latest–and most intrusive–anti-abortion legislation.
In the wake of the Governor’s “prayerful” signature of that measure, it seems that a group of Hoosier women has formed “Periods for Pence.” The concept is simple enough: since the Governor is so …interested…in our “lady parts,” Hoosier women are calling his office to report on the particulars of their monthly menses.
Evidently–and hilariously– the Governor’s office is being inundated with snarky “reports” about the details of women’s periods. (Readers who want to get in on the fun are encouraged to go to the group’s Facebook Page.)
Excellent as this trolling is, however, political theater really is no substitute for competent political leadership.
The Pence administration has been an unmitigated disaster for Indiana, not just because the Governor’s emphasis on social issues at the expense of actual governance has given us a decaying infrastructure and interfered with educational progress, among other things, but because it has been very, very bad for business.
When Georgia’s Republican Governor vetoed that state’s RFRA, observers noted that the Governor wanted to avoid the damaging economic repercussions that Indiana had experienced in the wake of Governor Pence’s very different decision in Indiana.
As I have written elsewhere: even Georgia doesn’t want to be Indiana.
But as this latest assault on Hoosier women demonstrates, it goes well beyond RFRA. This Governor has undone years of efforts to position Indianapolis and Indiana as welcoming, business-friendly venues.
Remember “Hoosier Hospitality”?
Under Mike Pence, Indiana garnered negative headlines for refusing to allow a single family of Syrian refugees to resettle in our “hospitable” state. His ongoing assault on the Superintendent of Public Instruction (elected, inconveniently, with more votes than Pence garnered) has given us a black eye in the national education community.
And now, in the wake of Pence’s “prayerful” signing of the nation’s most punitive and restrictive abortion law, national media is once again portraying Indiana as anything but hospitable.
The New York Times ran a scathing editorial. A banner in Salon.com was accusatory: “Mike Pence’s sadistic abortion law: Indiana passes draconian anti-choice bill geared towards humiliating and bankrupting women who have abortions.” Slate noted that “Indiana’s HB 1337 is So Extreme Even Republicans Don’t Like It.” Other headlines referred to the bill as “extreme,” “chilling” and “most restrictive in the nation.”
These latest headlines add to the national impression that Indiana is a state hostile both to LGBT individuals and women’s autonomy. And whatever one’s position on these issues, that image spells nothing but trouble for the state’s economy.
The business community has opposed these culture war eruptions for a very good reason: the message they send is terrible for business.
It’s hard enough recruiting top-flight talent—the sort of employee who is in high demand—to a state with no mountains, no oceans, a middling-to-poor quality of life (poor public transportation, ill-maintained parks, struggling schools), without adding a reputation for homophobia and chauvinism.
I’ve lived in Indianapolis all my life. I’ve been involved, over the years, in a number of efforts to “sell” our city. I still have fond memories of my time in the Hudnut Administration, when Bill Hudnut–a Mayor with a very different understanding of both Republicanism and Christianity than our Governor—talked about building an inclusive and welcoming “City on the Hill.” People in that Administration, and several that followed it, worked tirelessly to garner “good” PR for Indianapolis.
We knew then that a positive image wouldn’t just generate convention business, important as that is for the city and state’s bottom line, but that being seen as a welcoming and inclusive and vibrant city would encourage businesses to locate here, and those already here to expand.
We wanted to encourage all kinds of people to join us in building our local economy; not just those who went to a particular church or subscribed to a particular version of Christianity.
A lot of people have worked hard and spent a lot of money over the years, promoting Hoosier Hospitality. Too bad we elected a Governor who seems determined to undo it all.