INDIANAPOLIS—A proposal that would end Indiana’s 20-month emergency order led to more than five hours of debate and public testimony in the Indiana House chamber Tuesday. 

Emergency order meeting photo

Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, asks questions of those publicly testifying during Nov. 22's marathon meeting on whether or not to abandon Indiana's COVID-19 emergency order.

Two themes stood out during the testimony: The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and those who don’t want the vaccine don’t want to be forced to get it.

The joint meeting of the House and Senate Rules Committees was held to hear public testimony on legislative provisions that Gov. Eric Holcomb has requested in advance of ending the state’s emergency order, which has been in effect since the pandemic began in March 2020. Holcomb has requested provisions that would be needed for pandemic-related Medicaid funding to continue and for children to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, draft legislation including those provisions, as presented in the meeting Tuesday, also includes limits on whether private employers can require their employees to be vaccinated, as some hospital systems and Eli Lilly and Co. have done. There was no final vote on the proposed legislation, and most of Tuesday’s hearing was spent on public testimony for and against employer mandates. 

LeAnne Blue, chief nursing officer and executive vice president of patient care services at Eskenazi Health, said she does not believe the state of emergency order should end because she knows the pandemic is far from over. 

“Somebody asked me if the pandemic is over and when do we know it is,” she said. “Well, I’m gonna say no, it’s not, where I practice at Eskenazi.”

While several people related to local chambers of commerce questioned the expense and logistics of employers mandating vaccines for their workers, Heather Carrie, co-founder of Sarah and Dorothy, a foundation for medical freedom, asked for empathy for those fearing losing their jobs or being bullied at work for not being vaccinated. 

“We’ve had people taken into office spaces and yelled at, screamed at and demanded by their supervisors,” she said, questioning the safety of the vaccine.

 

Another area of the bill that was debated was that pertaining to vaccine exemptions for pregnant women. 

Dr. Samantha Haywood got the vaccine while she was pregnant. 

“[The exemption] is medically unsound and sends the message to pregnant people and those who intend to become pregnant that the vaccine is dangerous when the opposite is true,” Haywood said. 

She said that pregnant patients are 22% more likely to die during childbirth if they have COVID-19.

“I am tired of consenting to another COVID patient for an emergency C section because she can't get enough oxygen to her baby,” she said. 

Dr. Emily Scott, a pediatrician, said that when a mother has the virus, her baby is often delivered prematurely, which is one of the greatest risk factors for infant mortality. She said getting a vaccine during pregnancy could help both mother and child.

“These antibodies have been shown to pass through the umbilical cord to their baby, which may help their baby from getting COVID-19 in the first months of life,” she said. 

Haley Pritchett is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. 

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