Indiana’s 3rd District Congressman Jim Banks held a town hall at Adams Woodcrest Health Facility in Decatur on Friday morning.
Banks began the town hall by touting his work on veterans’ affairs at the state and national level before opening up to questions. Things quickly got testy…
“This is Adams County, we didn’t ask you to come down here!” shouted one constituent to a woman who said she came to the town hall from Fort Wayne.
“The women in this room who pay taxes and do not support defunding women’s health and preventative care, can you stand up?” called the woman.
“Sit down!” the previous constituent shouted.
The issue at hand was Planned Parenthood funding at the federal level. President Donald Trump signed legislation that would allow state and local governments to withhold federal funds for family planning services, like Planned Parenthood.
Banks supported the legislation, saying that constituents in Northeast Indiana are typically anti-abortion district and his support is consistent with his platforms in the past.
“I believe fundamentally that it is immoral that our tax dollars would go to fund organizations that provide abortions,” said Banks.
That answer doesn’t sit well with 3rd District Democratic Party chairwoman Madalyn Sade-Bartl, who emphasized that taxes don’t fund abortions at Planned Parenthood.
“That hasn’t happened for 41 years; the Hyde Act was passed in 1976,” said Sade-Bartl, who accused Banks of spreading misinformation.
“So instead of cutting funding for abortion, he’s cutting money for preventative services like breast cancer and ovarian cancer screenings, basic contraceptive, STD testing, things that are pertinent to the health of the 3rd District,” she said.
The room was divided for much of the session, primarily over issues like defense spending, LGBT rights and healthcare. But there was one concern shared by just about every person in the room: privacy from internet service providers, or ISPs.
Constituents expressed concerns that companies like Comcast and AT&T could now have the power to sell browsing histories and data of their customers. That’s because Congress just passed legislation rolling back an Obama-era regulation aiming to prevent just that.
Banks voted in favor of the bill, stating that, as a conservative, he supports less regulation.
“The piece of legislation that was passed, while there are some who disagree with the interpretation, I thoroughly read the bill, I learned more about it, and I believe it sets an appropriate course for privacy protection and also rolls back unnecessary regulations in the process,” he said.
He suggested constituents read the bill to provide a clearer sense of what it does.
Grant Walmer took him up on this challenge, reading the bill’s language aloud in the town hall and going back and forth with Banks.
“I just don’t see why you voted to get rid of this rule,” said Walmer after reading the bill in front of constituents at the town hall.
“The bill struck down the FCC’s ability to regulate, and the FTC will be able to continue to regulate,” Banks said. “I believe the private sector will rise up and answer the call for privacy protections as well.”
Banks also noted his concern that Google and Facebook were “carved out” of the original regulation, but Walmer added that Facebook is not an ISP. The discussion ended with Banks saying neither person was going to change the other’s mind.
Banks will return to Washington D.C. on Tuesday.