Keep An Eye on South Dakota

The legislature there is voting on one of the most wide-reaching state abortion bans since Roe. And if the ban goes through, it’s sure to reach the Supreme Court — offering up the chance to overturn Roe and take us decades back in terms of the privacy rights we all hold dear.

If the bill passes a narrowly divided Senate in a vote expected on Wednesday, and is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican who opposes abortion, advocates of abortion rights have pledged to challenge it in court immediately — and that is precisely what the bill’s supporters have in mind.

These guys are practically salivating over this one. The idea of controlling uteruses state-wide, and foring all pregnant women to give birth, is just too appealling.

Optimistic about the recent changes on the United States Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal around the country.

“I’m convinced that the timing is right for this,” said State Representative Roger Hunt, a Republican who has sponsored the bill, noting the appointments of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the court.

“The strong possibility of a third appointee sometime soon makes this all very real and very viable,” Mr. Hunt added, a reference to conjecture that Justice John Paul Stevens, 85, might soon retire. “I think it will all culminate at the right time.”

Pray to your God/Goddess, or just cross your fingers, that Stevens can stick it out for another couple years.

And this law really does call bullshit on any “pro-lifer” who claims that the anti-choice movement cares at all about women:

The proposed legislation, which states that “life begins at the time of conception,” would prohibit abortion except in cases where the pregnant woman’s life was at risk. Felony charges could be placed against doctors, but not against those seeking abortions, the measure says.

It offers no exception for the pregnant woman’s health — if giving birth is going to cause massive kidney damage which will likely kill her after childbirth, no exception. If giving birth is going to force doctors to perform a hysterectomy, no exception. If the fetus has such a severe birth defect that it will die before, during or immediately after birth, no exception — the woman will be forced by the state to bring a doomed pregnancy to term, and to go through the dangers of childbirth for a fetus that will never live when she could have had a safer procedure.

It criminalizes doctors. And it creates a medical environment where there just won’t be any doctors in South Dakota who know how to perform these procedures when they are absolutely necessary — when the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life; when women show up at the ER with partially-performed and botched illegal procedures; when the fetus dies in utero, and is literally rotting inside the woman’s body, posing a serious risk of septic shock and poisoning her. Even most anti-choicers would allow for removal of a dead fetus — but who knows how to do that? Abortion providers. Of which there will be none.

This ban additionally states that “life begins at the time of conception,” which again demonstrates that politicians probably shouldn’t be making laws about medicine when they have no idea what they’re talking about (hello there, “partial-birth” abortion!). “Conception” isn’t a medical term. Fertilization is, but pregnancy doesn’t start at fertilization — it starts at implantation. And if “life” in South Dakota starts at “conception,” they’re going to have a skyrocketing miscarriage rate, as about half of fertilized eggs naturally don’t implant in the uterus and get flushed out. Perhaps the next initiative will require women to save their used tampons and pads, or at least give them a proper burial, considering the possibility that there’s a baby on them.

I’m being snarky now, but I think it points to the ridiculousness of this law. Legislating the idea that “life begins at conception” brings with it a whole slew of problems, and is deeply medically and scientifically unsound. This entire bill should have us worried; let’s hope it doesn’t pass.

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24 comments for “Keep An Eye on South Dakota

  1. randomliberal/Robert
    February 22, 2006 at 10:09 am

    Whoever is conjecturing that Justice Stevens will retire during this administration is a dumbass. He understands the implication of his stepping down, he doesn’t live in a vacuum. Mr. Justice Stevens will retire over his dead body.

    Which is kind of what I’m worried about.

  2. February 22, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Well, Robert, I would have said the same thing about O’Connor.

  3. randomliberal/Robert
    February 22, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Yeah, I thought about that after I hit submit…I’m gonna stay slightly optimistic here, though…

  4. February 22, 2006 at 10:59 am

    And, of course, excluding women from criminal punishment makes less than no sense if “life begins at conception.”

  5. February 22, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Well, they don’t want to punish women, they just want to punish women.

  6. Stacy
    February 22, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    It isn’t going to happen, the anti-choice crowd would be crazy to try and overturn Roe right now, it’s a bad strategy.

    They have it the way they want it right now, even more if the court decides in their favor on partial birth abortion. It’s the perfect situation. They will just keep placing restrictions on it until it is almost impossible to have access to abortion in some places, but will never attempt to overturn Roe. Why would they? The way it’s going now, it’s a win-win situation. They get to infringe on women’s rights, force them to bring forth the next generation of taxpayers, and reduce them down to property of the state, yet they still have it at the federal level to use as a trump card in election years, so they can still keep right on playing that “oppressed underdog fighting the good fight” game that they love so much.

  7. February 22, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Stacy, I agree. That and it’s an election year.

  8. February 22, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    I’m not so sure. This wouldn’t reach the court for at least two years, in which time they’re banking on Stevens dying or retiring. He’s 85; Ginsburg is old too, and has had cancer twice. And they don’t have anything to lose by bringing this case. Even if the court affirms the holdings in Roe and Casey, it’s certainly not going to liberalize the current abortion laws. So they have a shot of overturning Roe, and even if they fail it just goes back to the status quo, which continues to allow them to chip away at rights little by little.

  9. February 22, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    I found myself thinking that they might do the same thing to this ban that they did to the parental-consent law, and just send it back to be fixed. I didn’t really understand exactly what went on with that, though. Could that happen with this law? This law is a complete mess, completely unenforceable, and not really very useful to people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade, as far as I can tell. I’m guessing it’s an election-year stunt for the state legislators, mostly.

  10. February 22, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    The idea of controlling uteruses state-wide, and foring all pregnant women to give birth, is just too appealling.

    I’m sure the thinking in South Dakota is just following through on the natural backlash of things. Women’s bodies have been treated how you Uterati have wanted for decades now. It’s time to give that power back where it belongs. White men.

  11. Meredith
    February 22, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Disgusting. My mother had a miscarriage a few years ago that required D&C to remove the baby, which was almost five months along. (I’m using baby/child terminology in this case because that’s what it was to us, a beloved and long-awaited sibling.) To say nothing of the physical risks, what about the mental and emotional pain for the woman and her loved ones with the knowledge that she had to carrry her DEAD CHILD around until it spontaneously aborted itself? God, I’m crying as I type this. It was hard enough on my poor mom, who had to wait almost a whole day (from after dinner when she started bleeding until late afternoon when the obstetrician was finally free to perform the procedure) knowing that her child was inside her, dead. I can’t imagine the anguish of someone who had to wait weeks or longer. No, it wasn’t putting my mother’s life at risk. However, it was putting her sanity and emotional health at risk.

  12. randomliberal/Robert
    February 22, 2006 at 11:17 pm

    This entire bill should have us worried; let’s hope it doesn’t pass.

    Too late

  13. February 22, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    As I said on another blog, this courts will strike this down for sure. The real threat is the death by a thousand cuts: parent notification, etc. They don’t want to overturn roe, it is red meat for the base. This bill is designed to fail so they can get the base out in anger over “activist judges”

  14. randomliberal/Robert
    February 22, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    On this particular bill, I think Stephen is right. At the very least, there are five pro-Casey votes (Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy), and I don’t think Kennedy has shifted so far as to overturn Casey.

    The one that worries me, and should worry everyone, IMO, is the case SCOTUS just granted cert for, Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenges the federal Women Are Stupid Hos Who Don’t Know What’s Good for Them Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Kennedy voted with the minority in the 2000 case which overturned the incredibly similar Nebraska Women Are Stupid Hos Who Don’t Know What’s Good for Them Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. So unless Roberts or Alito shock the world, women can kiss late-term abortions goodbye.

  15. randomliberal/Robert
    February 22, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    Gack! My strikethrough tags didn’t work. That should say:

    “…federal Women Are Stupid Hos Who Don’t Know What’s Good for Them Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Kennedy voted with the minority in the 2000 case which overturned the incredibly similar Nebraska Women Are Stupid Hos Who Don’t Know What’s Good for Them Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

  16. Jane
    February 23, 2006 at 8:47 am

    women can kiss late-term abortions goodbye

    Unfortunately, because there’s no such thing as “partial-birth abortion,” the wording of the ban is vague enough that abortions in the second trimester could be banned as well, depending on who’s doing the interpreting. (note: probably not the abortion provider)

  17. randomliberal/Robert
    February 23, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Yeah, that’s why I included all late-term abortions (and I meant to include 2nd trimester, though that’s quite possibly a misdefinition on my part).

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  20. Anne
    February 23, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    There already aren’t any doctors in SD who will perform abortions–existing laws already made them all back off. They now fly the doctors in from Minnesota, but if this law goes through, they won’t even be able to manage that.

  21. Anne (the other one)
    February 23, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    It hasn’t been signed yet, as far as I know.

  22. Anne (the other one)
    February 23, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    …I mean, it probably will be, but I’m just saying.

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