Indiana Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, is pictured in December 2023 filing her 2024 legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday. (Photo/Breaux’s X, formerly Twitter, account) 


By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

March 21, 2024


Indiana Sen. Jean Breaux, a Democrat from Indianapolis who served nearly 18 years in the state legislature and was described by colleagues as dedicated public servant and a fierce advocate, died Wednesday, according to the Senate Democratic Caucus.


Senate minority leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, issued a statement announcing Breaux death.


“It is a heavy and extremely sad day,” Taylor said in his statement. “The loss of State Senator Jean Breaux will be profoundly felt by the countless lives she touched, and we join so many in mourning the loss of her incredible life.”


Breaux joined the Indiana Senate in 2006, winning a caucus election to fill the Senate District 34 seat that represents Indianapolis’ east side and a portion of Lawrence and that was being vacated by her mother, Billie Breaux. The younger Breaux served as assistant Democratic leader from 2012 to 2020 in the Indiana Senate and was a member of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus.


Nationally, she was appointed to the Health and Human Services Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures, according to her biography on the Indiana General Assembly’s website. Also, in 2009, she was selected to attend the Program for Emerging Political Leaders hosted by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.


Breaux attended Boston University but returned home and graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. In a 2018 interview with Nuvo, Breaux said she had resisted following her mother into community activism and public service, seeing how hard her mother worked and the backlash she endured.



“She was engaged in a lot of conflicts, it seems, and there were all of these people yelling and screaming at her and I thought, you know, ewwe,” Breaux said. “But without me knowing it, I was following in her footsteps. I was vice president of my class in high school. I was vice president of my class in college. I worked on (U.S. Sen.) Ted Kennedy’s (1980 presidential) campaign in college. I went door to door …. It was in me with me acknowledging it.”


Legislative leaders recall Breaux’s dedication and compassion

On X, formerly Twitter, both the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and the Indiana Democratic Party expressed their sadness at Breaux’s passing. The Indiana Democratic Party said it was “eternally grateful for the impact Senator Jean Breaux had on her constituents, the City of Indianapolis, and all of Indiana.”


Rep. Earl Harris, D-East Chicago, chair of the IBLC, issued a statement detailing Breaux’s legislative efforts, which included bills that would have required insurance plans to provide coverage for pregnant women to receive doula care and would have mandated that utility providers offer a budget billing payment plan.


“Since her election to the Senate in 2006, Sen. Breaux has proven herself as a dedicated public servant and a fierce advocate for both her district and Hoosiers all over the state,” Harris said in his statement. “She has worked tirelessly to support Hoosiers of all backgrounds, championing issues related to Black infant and maternal healthcare, reproductive justice, food insecurity, gun violence and rising utility costs.”


Republican leaders also remembered Breaux as a dedicated legislator and friend.


Gov. Eric Holcomb recalled Breaux’s service on the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana and her commitment to public health. “The statehouse will not be the same without her in the chamber,” Holcomb said on X, formerly Twitter, “but her spirit and legacy will live on through the countless Hoosiers she inspired.”


Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, issued a statement saying Breaux “will be sorely missed. She has long been a fierce advocate for her district and always a lovely colleague with whom I truly enjoyed working.”


Breaux missed most of the 2024 legislative session because of health issues, but she had filed four bills including Senate Bill 41, which prohibited insurance providers from limiting coverage to living organ donors, and Senate Bill 42, which called for making Juneteenth a state holiday.


In addition, she had filed to run for reelection this year, seeking a fifth term in office. She was unopposed.


March 18, Breaux released a statement announcing her declining health and desire to “enjoy the time I have left surrounded by my loved ones.”


“I want to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone who has reached out, to my Statehouse colleagues and team, and to the community I have been so incredibly grateful to represent for nearly two decades,” Breaux said in her statement. “I am extremely proud of the work we did together to improve Black infant and maternal mortality, increase access to healthy food in food deserts, protect Hoosiers from rising utility costs, fight for reproductive justice, pass policies to address poverty, keep our communities safe from gun violence and so much more.”


Legislative legacy reflects advocacy

In recent legislative sessions, Breaux had filed bills for keeping the polls open until 7 p.m. on Election Day and requiring that absentee ballots cast by a voter who subsequently died be counted. She also filed an equal pay bill that would have prohibited employers from paying different wages based on sex, gender, race or national origin and legislation that would have required state employee health plans to include coverage for contraceptives.


As part of the minority party, few of her bills were passed by the legislature.


However, Breaux did often join other Democrats and Republicans to author and pass legislation. In 2021, she co-authored Senate Enrolled Act 63, with Sens. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, and Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, which ensured treatment for mentally ill offenders in the Indiana Department of Correction.



Her last post on X, formerly Twitter, was dated March 12 and called attention to “Equal Pay Day,” the date symbolizing how deep into another year that women must work to earn what men had earned in the previous year. “We much continue our fight for gender equality!” Breaux wrote.


During the 2022 special session, when Indiana became the first state to enact restrictions on reproductive freedom following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that overturned abortion rights, Breaux was among those fighting hard against Senate Enrolled Act 1, giving impassioned speeches from the Indiana Senate floor. On the final day of the session, a weary Breaux highlighted the imbalance in the upper chamber, pointing out that the Indiana Senate had only eight women senators but was enacting legislation that would limit what all Hoosier women could do with their bodies.


“Yet, here we are today, poised to strip from women a basic right that has been constitutionally protected for almost 50 years,” Breaux said. “We are backsliding on democracy; we are creeping dangerously towards autocracy. What other freedoms, what other liberties are on the chopping block waiting to be stripped away?”


Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates of Indiana CEO Jen Allen and state director Haley Bougher released a joint statement Wednesday, calling Breaux an extraordinary leader who had an “unwavering commitment to reproductive justice and health care access in Indiana.”


“Throughout her tenure, Senator Breaux fearlessly confronted challenges and championed causes often met with resistance, inspiring others to join the fight for equality and justice,” Allen and Bougher said in their statement. “Her legacy serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and the impact of principled leadership, even in the face of unrelenting opposition. Her fervent dedication to ensuring access to health care and reproductive services for all was not merely a legislative duty but a moral imperative.”


Breaux was also a strong supporter of the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that advocates for juvenile justice reform in Indiana. She served as a founding member of the organization’s board of directors and later on the advisory board.


In a statement, CPLI called Breaux a “shero” and credited her with championing legislation that improved juvenile justice and education and helping craft bills that created positive changes for young Hoosiers.


“The Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana is honored to have worked alongside Sen. Breaux and to have known there was a shero in our midst,” CPLI said in its statement. “She worked to empower our youth, the systems that cause them to thrive, and the individuals who support them. We are grateful for our trusted relationship with her in this work. It is our hope that Senator Breaux’s family, friends, and colleagues will cherish wonderful memories knowing that she is admired, celebrated and commemorated by those who have worked with her. We have profound gratitude for her many years of dedicated service to the State of Indiana.”


Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.



Related Posts