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Column: Personal opinions rid hopes of small government


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INDIANAPOLIS — Two Indiana state senators don’t think doctors do a good job of explaining the dangers of pregnancy and abortion.

That’s why Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, have authored a bill that would have the Indiana Department of Health print packets of information about abortion that doctors then would hand out to women who are pregnant.

The cost for printing the packets would be between $5,000 and $20,000. The idea for the bill came from a policy adopted by the state of Texas — that nationally recognized model of good governance. Indiana law already requires the state health department to post much of this information online.

Advocates for the bill say that the measure’s focus isn’t on abortion. Rather, it’s on getting information into the hands of women.

A spokeswoman for Indiana Right to Life said the measure is a good one because a woman who is pregnant “deserves all of the information she can get before making that decision.”

One of the bill’s authors was a bit less disingenuous.

“Being pro-life, I would hope that this bill would help to reduce the number of abortions in Indiana,” Banks said.

OK.

There are a couple of things one should say here.

The first is that this comes from a wing of the Republican Party that routinely rails against social engineering, using the power of government to influence people’s behavior and choices.

This is nothing but social engineering. These two lawmakers want to discourage women from even thinking about having an abortion, and they’re eager to use the power of state government and taxpayer money to promote their views.

Fair enough.

But then they — and everyone who supports this measure — forfeit the right to complain about social engineering, because it’s clear that their real complaint isn’t with the idea of social engineering itself. No, their complaint is that they don’t have a monopoly on being the engineers.

The second thing to note is that this comes from a political party that tirelessly bills itself as the champion of limited government.

Government is almost always the problem and rarely the solution, the Republican mantra goes. Government regulation chokes off creativity, stifles growth and demeans the intelligence of solid, respectable citizens. It costs jobs, and it damages lives.

But that apparently is only the case when the regulation is applied to the business community.

Everyone else, it seems, is fair game for regulation.

This measure would tell doctors and medical professionals how they should structure their consultations with patients.

(Imagine the outcry from Republicans if the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring employers to explain to employees that, in some circumstances, joining a labor union might be in the employee’s best interest.)

Another measure by one of this bill’s authors — the so-called “truth in education” bill by Kruse that would allow students to challenge classroom teaching about evolution — in the best possible interpretation is a redundant restatement of the First Amendment. At worst, it’s an attempt to micromanage teachers in the classroom.

Nor are these isolated examples.

In recent years, we have seen the Indiana General Assembly devote time and money to bills that would tell the Indiana High School Athletic Association how to run its basketball tournament, instruct Hoosiers on how to sing the national anthem and — as a lover of nice pens, my personal favorite — protect cursive handwriting.

All of these measures came from members of the “smaller, less intrusive government” party.

Now, as matters of personal opinion, all of these measures are defensible. Some even are admirable.

But the person who uses the power of government to carve a personal opinion into law loses the right to proclaim himself or herself an advocate for small government.

Perhaps this is not surprising.

Now that Republicans are the government in Indiana, they may be discovering that they like the idea of bigger and more intrusive government.

As long as that bigger, more intrusive government serves their interests, that is.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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