INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State Sen. Anita O. Bowser, a constitutional scholar
sometimes called “the conscience” of the Senate, died Sunday after a battle
with breast cancer.
Senate Democrat spokesman Jason Tomcsi said Bowser, 86, died peacefully in
her sleep about 6 a.m. in Indianapolis with a friend at her side. She had
been under medical care for the past two weeks, but was released last week
to hospice care as her condition worsened.
A Michigan City Democrat, she was first elected to the Indiana House of
Representatives in 1980. She was elected to the Senate in 1992, representing
LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. Her current term expires in 2008.
State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said that even though Bowser’s health was
failing, she decided not to return to Michigan City but stayed on in
Indianapolis in hopes of finishing out the legislative session.
She had been the ranking Democrat on the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee
and was a member of the Judiciary Committee, the Corrections, Criminal and
Civil Matters Committee, the Ethics Committee, and Education and Career
Her Democratic colleagues often called Bowser “the conscience” of the Senate
for her speeches on behalf of the underprivileged, workers and civil rights.
Bowser made her final speech before the Senate last month, declaring her
opposition to a proposal to amend Indiana’s constitution to include a ban on
same-sex marriage, Rogers said.
During that Feb. 21 speech, Bowser charged that some senators were afraid to
vote against the proposed gay marriage ban for fear of losing their seats in
the next election.
“You’re compromising your integrity for a vote,” Bowser said. “Does not your
conscience bother you about that?”
Gov. Mitch Daniels said in a statement that he was saddened by the news of
“Indiana will miss her leadership, and I will miss her personally,” he said.
A longtime opponent of the death penalty, Bowser sponsored legislation this
session that would ban the state from executing the mentally ill. A
commission will study Bowser’s proposal this summer.
Bowser earned several degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from Kent State
University, a law degree from the McKinley School of Law, a master’s degree
from Purdue University and a master’s and doctorate degrees from the
University of Notre Dame.
Survivors include one brother, Carl Albu of Asheville, N.C.; one niece and
two nephews. Her husband preceded her in death.
Funeral arrangements are pending, but family and friends will gather for
visitation and funeral services later this week followed by burial in the
Greenwood Cemetery in Michigan City.