Wednesday, February 22, 2006

UPDATE: The bill banning virtually all abortions in South Dakota has passed the Senate, 23-12. Amendments to provide exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape and to protect the pregnant woman's health; to put the issue to a public vote and to set up a litigation fund that would accept donations to pay for lawsuits, all failed. I'm not quite clear on what that last item meant; I'm assuming the donations would have paid the legal expenses for women whose health had been damaged by being forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

SOUTH DAKOTA'S SENATE is scheduled to vote today on legislation that would ban all abortions in that state with only one exception: the mother's life. The bill has already passed in the House, and the Republican governor of South Dakota, Michael Rounds, is expected to sign it.

Opponents of legal abortion see this law as a test case for outlawing all abortions -- if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear it. SCOTUS just agreed to rule on the constitutionality of a ban on second- and third-trimester abortions (what abortion foes call "partial-birth abortion"). Obviously, the high court's willingness to take on that case greatly increases the likelihood that they will agree to hear arguments on South Dakota's complete abortion ban, if it becomes law. If the justices do take the South Dakota case, and uphold the abortion ban, that would, of course, overturn Roe v. Wade.

I personally don't think that will happen. Even if they uphold the ban on later term abortions, most Americans do not support making all abortions illegal.

That doesn't lessen the outrageousness of the South Dakota legislation. And rather than use my own words to explain why I feel that way, I'm going to give you the words of Jill at Feministe. She really cracks the nut open:

...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.

Amen to that.

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