RICH JAMES: Where's the compassion toward Hoosier girls?

2013-09-25T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Where's the compassion toward Hoosier girls?By Rich James nwitimes.com
September 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If you weren’t shocked by the results of The Status of Girls in Indiana study, you ought to check for a pulse.

The study, which was compiled by St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, compares Indiana girls ages 10 to 19 with girls across the country.

It’s not a pretty picture. And, given the political status of Indiana, it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

The study found that Indiana girls are more overweight, poorer, more sexually active and more likely to get pregnant than those in other states.

A third feel sad and hopeless and 22 percent have considered suicide. And a startling 37 percent consider themselves overweight or obese.

Half of the girls said they have had sex.

More than 37 percent of every 1,000 girls got pregnant and gave birth, compared to the national average of 34 percent. And one-sixth of teen mothers have more than one child.

Twenty-two percent live below the poverty line. Half of all black and Hispanic girls live in poverty.

Oh, the joys of being a young woman in Indiana.

Although the report didn’t give a breakdown of the political affiliation of the parents of the girls, I’ve got suspicions.

I’d like to say the prospects were favorable in Indiana for fixing the problem, but I can’t.

The problem lies in state officials recognizing there is a problem. They haven’t been willing to do so.

Take, for instance, what Vincent Caponi, executive chairman of St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis, said.

Caponi said health care providers should use the report to put “plans and initiatives in place to ensure we are addressing the issues,” according to an article in The Times.

Because Gov. Mike Pence — with the acquiescence of the Republican-controlled Legislature — opposed Obamacare and opted against increasing the Medicaid program in Indiana, there will be at least 350,000 Hoosiers without health insurance. They can’t afford it.

Girls in that category have virtually no access to mental and physical health care planning.

And, what about the pregnancy issue? There is a mindset in this state to let teens flounder when it comes to sex, contraception and prenatal care.

When he was in Congress, Pence attempted to defund Planned Parenthood because the agency performs abortions, even though abortions are performed only with private dollars.

In concert with Pence, the Legislature attempted to block federal money from coming to Planned Parenthood of Indiana. The courts eventually knocked sense into GOP lawmakers.

Don’t expect Republican legislators to address the plight of Hoosier teens come January. No, they will be too busy doing what they shouldn’t — telling gays they never will be able to marry in Indiana. And a poll this week shows two-thirds opposed to a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Where’s the compassion? Where are the priorities?

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are writer’s.

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