Monday, March 06, 2006

New abortion law full of contradictions.

Today, South Dakota's governor signed the new abortion law. The law, scheduled to go into effect on July 1 (although it will be challenged in court) bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother. The proponents of the law have said openly that their intent was to time this law, hoping that Justice Stevens' heart won't last until a new President is sworn in in January 2009, thereby allowing President Bush to replace him with a strong conservative, who will join with Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Leaving aside how 'pro-life' it is to wish for the death of Justice Stevens, and also leaving aside the troubling aspects of passing legislation, not with any idea that it will become law, but only to force a challenge, the law and its supporters are a mass of contradictions.

Start with the law itself. Of course, since it bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother, this includes Rape. But then rep. Bill Napoli, Republican of Rapid City and a leading proponent of the bill, when asked about this by Fred de Sam Lazaro on PBS' Online Newshour, did change his tune and name an exception for rape-- sort of:

BILL NAPOLI: 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.

Uh, I don't even know where to begin on that. First of all, ANY rape victim is likely to be very messed up, physically and psychologically, whether they are impregnated or not. Read Shayna's post about a friend of hers who ended up killing herself after being raped. How does it make any difference whether the girl in question was a churchgoer, whether she was a virgin or whether she was sodomized? I addressed the whole question of whether virginity had anything to do with the seriousness of the crime on a post I wrote a few weeks ago criticizing an Italian court decision on the subject. Obviously, rep. Napoli has 1) done what was ideologically fed to him, and not thought it through on his own, and 2) thinks that some people are more deserving of protection under the law than other people are (dare we say, 'better?')

Later on, Napoli goes on:

BILL NAPOLI: 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.

I'm sure that will lead to a whole lot of wonderful marriages. There is a reason they don't do shotgun weddings anymore. Think about what life would be like if you married whoever you were going with when you were a sophomore in high school. Besides, given what Mr. Napoli just said about rapists, does this mean that if the girl was not a churchgoer or a virgin, or the rape didn't involve sodomy, that he would suggest that she marry the rapist? I mean, that seems to be the implication if you read all of his statements together.

Further, since the only crime more serious than rape is murder, let's assume that the South Dakota legislators really do equate abortion with murder. In that case, why did they make actually performing one a class A misdemeanor (fine: $5000 to the doctor, and $2000 to the woman; does this mean that if she aborts herself with a coat hanger, she gets charged with two misdemeanors and has to pay $7000?) Either it is murder or it isn't. If it is, then why are they calling it a misdemeanor, and if it isn't, why are they calling it more serious than rape?

Beyond that, there is the whole issue of abortion rights. I blogged on it last July The successes of Liberals in stopping abortion, in one of my relatively early posts. What I said then, I still stand by.

In fact, abortion represents a very real tragedy. Nobody ever has sex just so that they or their partner can end up in an abortion clinic. Have you ever met a woman who was happy about getting an abortion? No one I know outside the Chinese government is 'pro-abortion,' and in fact we as liberals would love it if there were no abortions because every child was wanted. But, it is sadly and tragically not so. Yet. But that is the goal that we are aiming for.

Then I went on to point out that our Liberal program, focusing on sex ed, birth control and family planning has been much more successful over the past decade at reducing the number of abortions (down by a third since peaking in the early 1990's) than all the quixotic attempts by conservatives to ban it. And they've consistently fought against the very measures which we have had success with.

What they want to do is to take away the freedom of reproductive choice. Now, with freedom, are there people who will make choices you or I wouldn't, or that maybe we don't even like? Of course there will be. So what? How is that our business in the first place? Beyond that, one of my commenters had a great insight, which I have adopted. He compared abortion to smoking:

I don't like smoking. Smoking pollutes the air, causes millions of cancers (including some in non-smokers) and has been linked to heart disease, childhood asthma and low birthweight. And besides all that, it stinks. So, I support efforts to fund education about smoking and to help people quit. And those funds have done their job-- the smoking rate in America has gone way down over the past decade since this started. But do I support banning nicotine? NO.

And for that matter, if this becomes law, it is hard to see how it will stop abortion. It may stop doctors, but as I pointed out once before, there are plenty of shady characters (like the ones who run meth labs) who would probably love another opportunity to make a few dollars, this time by preying off desparate women. One can only imagine what kind of sanitary conditions one would find in their hideouts.

To reiterate though, the bottom line is this: abortions prevented by the Liberal plan involving sex ed, family planning, and birth control (supplemented recently by emergency contraceptives): Tens of thousands every year. Abortions prevented by conservatives tying up the courts with attempts to ban it: Zero.

Abortion opponents like those in the South Dakota legislature need to keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to oppose something besides banning it. But maybe they are too narrow in their views to think of any.


dorsano said...

Planned parenthood is leaning toward submitting this law, via petition, to the approval of the citizens of SD.

If they do, I'm willing to wager that it doesn't pass.

The law also defines "life" as begining at fertilization and redefines pregnacy not as the medical community does as begining at implantation, but at fertilization.

This begs the question as to whether or not a fertilized egg is a citizen of the U.S., protected by the constitution - which is in contradiction to the 14th amendment.

I find it very hard to believe that this (or any) Supreme Court would rule so radically.

There are really two rulings, Roe V Wade and Doe V Bolton, that provide the framework for legalized abortion. It is Doe V Bolton that broadly interprets "the health of the mother" - Roe is actually much more restrictive.

dorsano said...

An interesting bit of history ...

Governor Rounds (R) quoted Hubert Humphrey (D) (without designation) in his statement to the press at the signing of this law.

In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society

I find it interesting that it takes "liberal" arguments and rhetoric to persuade Americans.

Eli Blake said...


I wonder then, if he believes that Humphrey quote, if he is favoring more funding for programs helping poor, single mothers?

Naaah, that would probably mean he couldn't give as many tax cuts to the rich.

Republicans are so full of it.

dorsano said...

Rounds knows that this law won't hold - as does most of the SD GOP leadership.

The current GOP leadership is operating in a 50% + 1 mentality - they will do whatever it takes to bring 50% + 1 on board for as long as they can manage in order to dismantle as much government as they can manage.

This law keeps the issue alive - for years - probably for at least two election cycles.

This court IS favorable to reasonable restrictions on abortions as is the majority of Americans

But this law is not reasonable - so the issue will live.

EAPrez said...

This SD law goes even further. It prohibits emergency contraception - thereby forcing a women to carry a child. Of course this only affects women without resources - as women with the means/ability will go to another state. By declaring life begins at fertilization rather than implantation - I am curious why the bill didn't further outlaw IUD's since they don't prevent fertilization. I suppose that's next. This law does not allow for abortions if carrying a baby to term would be a health risk (I just did an authorization for payment for one here in Ohio for a woman who had cardiac problems - and the pregnancy posed a real health risk to her) in SD her life would have to be in jeapordy. This is an outrage. What really pisses me off about this is men who bemoan abortion as a matter of birth control. Declaring that women who play must pay. They should accept personal responsibility for their actions. Problem with that analysis is that the woman and child are the ones who pay - while the man is free to do or not do what he will about it. I wouldn't bank on the idea that having the issue on the ballot would mean its defeat. There are many things that have happened in MY country in five short years that most of us never imagined. I fear this is the tip of the ice berg and I am VERY afraid for the future of women - of limited resources and for the country as a whole. Great analysis as always Eli.

EAPrez said...

I think dorsano should go to the PBS site and see the story. I could not believe what I was hearing when I saw it on Friday.

dorsano said...

06 March, 2006 21:30 I think dorsano should go to the PBS site and see the story. I could not believe what I was hearing when I saw it on Friday.

Can you elaborate, Eaprez and save me the trip :)

Cacuses are tomorrow and I should have gone to bed long ago.

Are you saying that the people in SD will support this? I really don't think so but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

dorsano said...

If you mean Eli's link, EAPrez - that's newsspeak - a writer's attempt to describe if not shape reality.

I don't kid myself that I may be mistaken - but I don't believe that the people of SD will support this law.

I hope that planned parenthood puts the question to them.

dorsano said...

Here's another way to look at things - at least as far as partisan Democrats are concerned ...

Where will the "religious right" get engaged if and when abortion (and gay marriage) is outlawed?

Will they support the likes of NAFTA, CAFTA?

Will they support Health Savings Accounts?

Will they support dismantling Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid?

Will they support shifting the tax burden off of capital and corporations and more on to the working class?

Or will they support universal health care? And fair trade? Affordable education? And a sound tax policy?

Has Karl Rove not asked himself this question? Am I smarter than he is?

Eli Blake said...


Asking where the religious right will go once they turn us into a Taliban like theocracy is like asking what happens to a cancer after it kills you dead. I'd just as soon avoid finding out.

Anonymous said...

You know how I feel on this subject. This was very well written with a lot of thought...

It doesn't matter if a woman was raped as a virgin, religious, blahblahblah... she was raped and inpregnanted by the bastard. The scary thing is... if that rapist wants to be a total bastard and the rape victim decides to have the baby... he can ask for parental rights.

From one of my post on this subject "I know there are options for women who have been raped and become pregnant other than abortion. I’m not saying that abortion is the first thing that pops into the head of the victim. I know abortion does not turn back time and make the rape victim un-raped. Education is the key. Being there for the rape victim is the key. A majority of women who have been raped decide to have the abortion because of no support from family or friends. She is turned into the criminal. It’s a shame but it is true. When she has nothing left, when she feels she has no one… she does have a choice. A CHOICE!!!! Or she could end up like my friend, Tara who took her on life because she felt like no one supported her/believed in her."

Thanks for writing this...

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, we have a President who believes (like I do) that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided. Let it be a State decission. Let the legislators and citizens of each state decide what restrictions, if any, they want to place on abortions.

EAPrez said...

Here's the link to the PBS story.
I lived in SD for 5 years. It really is like living on another planet. The people of SD CONTINUE to vote for a man like Bill Napoli whose thinking is so neandrathal.

Eli Blake said...


They have been known to have bouts of rationality though.

For example, they did elect George McGovern and Tom Daschle. And in 1988, Bush Sr. got a scare from Dukakis in S.D. (who was ahead there at times during the race) before he pulled away and carried the state, but still by only 20,000 votes, an unusually close call there for a Republican. That's why I wonder about the effort to put this on the ballot. I suspect that despite the basic conservatism of the state, the citizenry might not be so quick to rush out and vote for it.

dorsano said...

Asking where the religious right will go once they turn us into a Taliban like theocracy is like asking what happens to a cancer after it kills you dead.

Up until about 1976, most of the "Taliban" (those at voting age at the time) were Democrats.

This is a bit different in my opinion than looking on them as Dixiecrats

My point is that they are being used - Roe v Wade will not be overturned. Though Doe V Bolton could be more ridgedly defined over time.

Like I said, I'll take wagers. But I expect a revolt in Kansas soon, so what do I know.