Roe & South Dakota …a few days late

The extreme anti-abortion law in South Dakota, House Bill 1215, has been signed by Gov. Mike Rounds. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that this isn’t the start of a major and sweeping attack on Roe.

Sunday an opinion piece by William Saletan was published in the Washington Post entitled, “Life After Roe”. He argues in a very succinct fashion,

“It must be up to reproductive rights supporters to give the public what it wants: abortion reduction within a framework of autonomy.”

On it’s face this sounds reasonable. I’ve never met a woman who was like “Sweet! I just got an abortion!” but I have meet women who were unapologetic about the fact that they made the decision to have an abortion. Frankly that’s the way it should be. The problem comes later in the article when Saletan makes the claim that because of a combination of advances in contraception and the increased possibilities for abortions earlier in the first trimester, second-trimester abortion becomes less necessary. As it’s second and third-trimester abortions which are more difficult to support, these we can work to eliminate these abortions, preserving first trimester abortions.

I suggest you read the full piece to get a grasp on what he’s saying. His position is well argued and makes sense on a general level. My issues with this are threefold and begin with this paragraph of the piece:

“Technology can’t avert all our failings or tragedies. There will always be abortions. But when you look at the trends–more foolproof contraception, more access to morning-after pills, earlier and fewer abortions–you can begin to envision a gradual, voluntary exodus from at least half the time frame protected by Roe. That’s the half the public doesn’t support.”

1) the new technologies in contraception Saletan lists haven’t been used long enough to fully flesh out the potential health risks. The revolutionary contraceptive patch that was supposed to be so much better than the pill proved to have blood clot risks just a few years later. Even the beloved pill has it’s own set of issues. I don’t blame any women, young or otherwise that doesn’t raise her hand to try the new contraceptive implant. Sorry, I won’t be trying it either.

2) “more access to morning-after pills” – where? There have very recently been victories in this area with big box store Target. Even Wal-Mart has stated that they’ll carry Plan B but still won’t require that pharmacists fill the prescription if it violates their morals. That said, the morning-after pill (Emergency Contraception or EC) still has to be taken within 72 hours – and you must have a prescription. Good luck getting that in a red state on a Sunday morning. For this to really work EC must be available over-the-counter. As of now it’s not. So this doesn’t seem like a really compelling argument to me at present.

3) “you can begin to envision a gradual, voluntary exodus from at least half the time frame protected by Roe. That’s the half the public doesn’t support.” – no. not really. For me this is the problem with pro-choice supporters pulling back in this fashion. The most constant component of an abortion is that it is always a medical procedure. Anyone who has a clue knows that in medicine there are always exception and special cases, and many of those can’t be foreseen. Every person is different. Every fetus develops in a minutely different way. A pregnancy that looks like it’s going fine in the 3rd month can go awry in the 5th. A woman who has minor health issues before she becomes pregnant can have massive complications in the 4th. Mandating that these procedures are illegal steps in and makes a premature diagnosis for every single woman who might become pregnant in the US. I don’t think that there’s any other medical situation or procedure that we’re comfortable stepping in and making legal decisions about other than pregnancy.
Without massive exceptions to these kinds of sweeping bans these laws won’t work for real people. Clearly we don’t care about the law working for real people if we’re willing to support these kinds of regulations.

On some level I think the South Dakota bill, House Bill 1215, is really about something bigger. South Dakota Representative Bill Napoli confirms my suspicions when he talks about returning to traditional values within our society, and specifically within his own state

“When I was growing up here in the wild west, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn’t allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again.”

When Rep. Napoli envisions a “life-of-the-mother exception” to the ban he explains it as the following kind of scenario:

“A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”

Within the massive value judgements made in this scenario, I have to wonder if I, a married, atheist were raped and found myself pregnant and was unfortunate enough to be a South Dakota resident could I make an arguement for my own life?

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4 comments
  1. Daniel said:

    Yeah, I’ve been avoiding thinking about this one. Its shameful.

  2. Allison said:

    I don’t know if you read it already, but I highly recommend Broadsheet (http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/). Their take on the good senator’s remarks were really interesting in a OMG-now-I-have-to-go-throw-up kind of way.

  3. I knew Roe v. Wade was in trouble when Alito was confirmed but I thought they’d at least wait for the dust to settle before they began to attack it. Geesh. This administration is such an embarassment to the country.

  4. sarah said:

    cool. didn’t see that broadsheet! thanks.–>

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