Thursday, February 23, 2006

Marching toward Gilead, redux

From Salon, today:

February 23,2006 | PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota moved closer to imposing some of the strictest limits on abortion in the nation as the state Senate approved legislation that would ban the procedure except when the woman's life is in danger.

The bill, designed to spark a courtroom showdown over the legality of abortion, passed 23-12 Wednesday. On Thursday, it was headed back to the House, where lawmakers already approved similar legislation.

Republican Gov. Mike Rounds, a longtime abortion opponent, has said he would "look favorably" on an abortion ban if it would "save life."

Under the measure, doctors in South Dakota would face up to five years in prison for performing an abortion. The only exception would be for women who need abortions to save their lives.

"In my opinion, it is the time for the South Dakota Legislature to deal with this issue and protect the lives and rights of unborn children," said Sen. Julie Bartling, a Democrat and the bill's main sponsor.


The bill makes no exceptions for incest, rape, or the health of the mother.

South Dakota has tried to do this before, and the ban has always failed. Bitch, PhD has some powerful things to say about it--I'll warn my more conservative readers that she's fiercely pro-choice, and is much more passionate and vigorous in her arguments about the issue than I am.

Look, I understand what the anti-abortion contingent is about--I understand that women who advocate state control of women's reproductive decisions think that this is about saving a human life, albeit nestled inside a clump of cells that weighs around an ounce, about the size of my thumb, still without a complete and functioning central nervous system--a life the evil abortion-mongers want to snuff like a tadpole.

That really is not what access to safe and legal abortion is about, though.

It's just not.

Access to safe and legal abortions is about, in at least small measure, protecting the lives and health of women for whom pregnancy is simply untenable. Because, anti-choice propaganda aside, only someone deeply disturbed perceives abortion as a desirable birth-control strategy. This is very much part of a pervasive and misogynistic view of female sexuality that includes keeping birth control restricted and stigmatized; and keeping adolescent women uninformed and largely defenseless--only further increasing male control over female bodies.

Now, I do know I've more than one reader who feels very strongly about this--and we can talk about it, if you'd like. I also know that this is a hot button issue for people, but y'all have always shown yourselves to be intelligent and thoughtful, even when we disagree on something important. So I'll trust us to be kind to one another. I'll also promise to listen.

If this is the wave of the future for our country, I fear greatly for the women whose lives will be tragically affected by this trend.

A wire coat hanger in someone's basement is a really lousy alternative for everyone involved.

18 comments:

Lisa Spangenberg said...

Let's ignore the huge issue of abortion for victims of rape and incest--and let's look at the agenda of many of those most opposed to abortion.

If they really were concerned about life, about preventing abortion, don't you think they'd advocate conception control? Isn't that the smart thing to do?

They don't. They tend to oppose sex education, particularly sex education that includes frank and honest discussion of conception prevention and safe sex.

We seem incapable of learning from history. We know that if abortion is illegal, women will still have unsafe abortions. We know abstinence as conception prevention doesn't work now and hasn't ever worked.

We also know that most unplanned pregnancies involve the poor, and the under twenty. We know adolscents are the ones most likelt to do really stupid things when it involves their bodies, their sexuality, and their reproduction.

If right to life folks really cared, and had an ounce of intelligence, they'd advocate conception control, honest sex education, legal abortion within human standards including "morning after" remedies (I'll let the experts argue the specific terms) because if there's a legal, confidential place for people to get help, there are chances to offer alternatives.

And with decent conception control information and access, we could vastly reduce the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.

TillyLost said...

So far, abortion has not been a high profile political issue in the U.K. in the way it is in the U.S.
If the ability of women to access safe, legal abortions in the U.S. becomes limited, then I fear we'll feel the shock waves here.

AstonWest said...

From what I understand, a lot of the statutes around here (and maybe everywhere else?) were originally worded to include "the health" of the mother-to-be, which was then interpreted to include "mental health", which opened the door to nearly anyone who asked to have one. So, I can see why it is they want to institute it based on only the life of the m-t-b being in danger.

That being said, I would have included allowances for rape and incest and the like. My main beef has always been with those who are using it to shirk responsibility for their actions.

Sean D. Schaffer said...

My personal view on this issue is that if people would keep from having sex in the first place, there wouldn't be so many unplanned pregnancies.

That aside, though, I do not understand why, if the mother's life is in danger or in the case of rape or incest, a mother should not have the right to not go through with the pregnancy. It makes no sense to me that if someone is raped, that they should have to be punished for what someone else did to them.

As to the comment another poster made on abstinence not working and never having worked, I would have to say that as abstinence means to not have sex, if people abstain from sex, they're not going to have an unplanned pregnancy on their hands.

I, for instance, have abstained all my life from sexual intercourse, and I have never caused a pregnancy. Period. It has not happened. If it works for me, why wouldn't it work for anyone else who puts it into practice?

But the issue here of abortion and sex-ed being so wrong in people's minds, really bothers me. Why is it wrong to prevent bad things from happening to a person? I mean, if the people who claim they believe what the Bible says is true, would read that Bible more often, they would know there is no commandment to not prevent a pregnancy conception anywhere in it.

Tish Grier said...

Hi Mac...

I'm always very bothered by thinly veiled attempts to prove when life is present in the womb. Every argument I've read presents a slippery slope whereby a woman who has a miscarriage could end up going to jail for murder.

That's what scares me the most about the rollbacks to abortion laws--just how far they might reach into women's bodies to prove a specious theological point...

(and on that note, theologians have disagreed for millenia how and when life begins. What makes the fundies think they've got it all figured out? talk about hubris!)

Mayden's Voyage said...

I have not had time to process all of this...but I will in the next day or so. However, I must point out that South Dakota has a population of only 754,844 (US census info) and of those, only 380,00 are women, and of those, many are under 18. I live in a small city in the south and there are over 200,000 people in this area alone. It seems interesting to me that this kind of legislation is being considered within a population group smaller than a large gathering at a coffee shop in New York City.
My view point, and I am on the right here, is that contraception MUST be in the forefront of all actions taken on the war against abortion. Preach about abstinence, preach about condoms, preach about birth control...I do all of these things as a responsible parent. And, if all else fails, adoption is a better solution than abortion...almost every time. The rape and incest issue is as far out there for the left as is the complaint about abortion being a form of birth control on the right. We, on BOTH sides know women who fit into both categories. And both women who find themselves in these extremes are in deeper trouble than making a life or death decision for their unborn child.
I can not stress enough the long term psychological issues a woman will face when she aborts a child.
Well, for someone who has not processed all of this, a lot spilled out. There are solutions other than coat hangers, and we are in the year 2006, and it is high time we as a country faced the issue of the death of many, many innocent lives, at the convience of another. The unwanted child did not ask to be placed in the womb, and once he/she arrives there, he/she has the right to thrive.
All of our resources, as parents, and adults should be gathered together as one force to insure that the abortion issue be settled. I can only act and affect the lives of young women around me, and believe me, I do all I can to help, in any way I can. And if that means taking a sister, or a friends child to a Dr, to learn about..and even pay for, birth control, then that is what I will do. If we, as women, on the left and right, took this stand for our daughters, and the daughters of our friends, we would not be squandering our time discussing a womans right to choose. We would be giving our time to helping babes find homes, and preventing unwanted pregnancy in every corner of this country.
Let's give that a try...
-Cora

Mac said...

Lisa, I swear to god I'm gonna stop writing and just follow you around and say, "yeah! What SHE just said!" Pretty much every time you say something incisive and perfect.

Thanks, everyone for weighing in with how you feel about this, and why. It's sometimes a mystery to me why and how people I like very much see things so very differently.

TillyLost said...

From the Salon article:

Republican Gov. Mike Rounds, a longtime abortion opponent, has said he would "look favorably" on an abortion ban if it would "save life."

I suppose this is the bit that gets to me the most. It's a lie. Abortion rates do not go down when restrictions on abortions go up. If you believe that abortion is taking a human life, there are things that affect abotion rates. Access to contraception is one of them.

Here is a report which used statistics on abortion rates from the WHO:

http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/journals/25s3099.html


And from that report:
"Abortion rates are no lower overall in areas where abortion is generally restricted by law (and where many abortions are performed under unsafe conditions) than in areas where abortion is legally permitted."

The U.S. does not have a particularly high abortion rate. It doesn't have the lowest, but the rates have been declining in recent years.

Jill said...

Okay - so here's what I'm thinking. I haven't read the bill, but if it says that an exception can be made to save the mother's life, right? Then there are probably some procedures that are outlines that say who makes the determination as to whether the abortion is necessary to save the mother's life, right?

And if that's the case, then I think the first test case of this law, should the bill become law, HAS GOT TO BE THAT AN M.D. PSYCHIATRIST makes the ruling that in the mother's case, her life will in fact be in danger if she doesn't have the abortion. Use statistics on what happens - in life, mentally and emotionally- to girls and women who are forced to have babies. Because there is no way you can tell me that a mother's life ISN'T in danger when she's forced to have a child born from rape or incest.

Now - anyone know any good psychiatrists in South Dakota?

AstonWest said...

"And if that's the case, then I think the first test case of this law, should the bill become law, HAS GOT TO BE THAT AN M.D. PSYCHIATRIST makes the ruling that in the mother's case, her life will in fact be in danger if she doesn't have the abortion."

See above...this is why (I imagine) the South Dakota law was worded the way it was, because the original wording of the law was interpreted to achieve a certain end. If the scenario you describe happens, it will only lead to yet another bill in the future which words the intent differently...

And around and around we'll go...

Jill said...

Aston, you are, of course, 100% correct. Which is why, for example, it's kind of dumb to throw out a lawsuit on certain the kinds of technicalities that can easily be remedied.

However, I raise this scenario of using and MD, Psychiatrist because I actually believe that it's relevant - that is, the people who support this law are not only trying to legislate social norms and behaviors and morals which are held by no where near the majority of Americans who will be affected, but they're also trying to legislate around a situation that involves far too many different opinions, depending on who you're asking re: the mother's life is in danger.

I'm serious.

I have friends who are stauch Catholics yet are against laws like this one specifically because they recognize how the very government that would seek to have a woman give birth to every child the government believes is a human being even as an embryo is the same government that doesn't provide financial or infrastructural support for those girls, women and children born of such laws.

Thus, if we as a society can't even take care of the wanted babies, or the babies who currently aren't aborted even in the worst circumstances, how on earth and who on earth is going to care for the ones that the MOTHERS didn't even want?

On a similar note, check out the new book called The Baby Business, which is about how something like $2 billion is spent every year on INTERNATIONAL adoption, NOT adoption of unwanted kids born in this country.

AstonWest said...

"On a similar note, check out the new book called The Baby Business, which is about how something like $2 billion is spent every year on INTERNATIONAL adoption, NOT adoption of unwanted kids born in this country."

I believe it (in fact, a relative of mine went overseas to do so a year or two back).

There are a multitude of reasons why people go overseas to adopt, many of which I would imagine stem from the f-ed up system in place in this country, the hoops people are forced to go through, and the chances of finding a child to adopt with no major life or health issues.

Newborns and infants (other than those with severe health issues) generally get adopted in this country with no problem. The trouble is, there aren't that many to choose from. The older a child gets, the harder it is to place them.

AstonWest said...

"...how on earth and who on earth is going to care for the ones that the MOTHERS didn't even want?"

Actually, my last statement was geared toward this question...

For those who don't even want their children, there are tons of people who can't have children who would love to be able to have a newborn infant of their own. At least that's my take from personal experience.

Something to think about...

Jill said...

I don't know, Aston. Maybe it's just where I live, but I worked at this mental health agency for eight years and I'm telling you, the way you talk about adoption and how so many want these babies that others don't want etc., sounds like we live in two different countries. I don't mean to be snide, but from what I know, the babies who are most likely to be born because they couldn't be aborted are also going to be disproportionately needy babies who are less "adoptable" than...I'm not even sure what population of babies you're talking about.

I'm not indicting what you're saying, but I'm very uncertain that it reflects the reality of adoption, which, you also pointed out, as a system, is rather f**ed up in this country.

So - I go back to what I meant to emphasize and that is that if pro-life folks want to gain support from those whom they think should be supporting them (like Catholics), they need to be providing services for those mothers who didn't want to have or shouldn't have had the baby in the first place.

emeraldcite said...

I get upset that pro-lifers don't understand that pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion. It's about access, it's about safety.

What if an older woman who believes she went through menopause becomes preganant and there is a high risk to her health or high risk for birth defects? These situations are difficult.

Also, I'm pro-choice, but that doesn't mean I'm not pro-life. Just because I side with the freedoms of women, doesn't mean that I like abortion, condone it, or encourage it.

But no one should regulate the rights of women to choose.

Part of me almost wants the South Dakota bill to go through. Then, when the first underage child there becomes pregnant after a family member rapes her and she's forced to have the child and share the parental rights with her rapist, we'll see how well their courts handle it then....

[grumble grumble]

AstonWest said...

"I don't mean to be snide, but from what I know, the babies who are most likely to be born because they couldn't be aborted are also going to be disproportionately needy babies who are less "adoptable"..."

I guess it depends on who you think are currently getting abortions...

In my opinion, that would include underage minors and women who weren't expecting (or wanting) to have a child in the first place.

"...the way you talk about adoption and how so many want these babies that others don't want etc., sounds like we live in two different countries."

Straight from an agency's website ( https://www.cominghomekansas.org/children.html )..."Over 80% of the children waiting for a forever family are age 7 years or older."

That would mean that 20% are under 7. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say at most, maybe 5% of those would be infants (under 1 year old), and maybe half of those would be free of any health issues.

"I'm not indicting what you're saying, but I'm very uncertain that it reflects the reality of adoption..."
Reality: The vast majority of adoptive families are looking for children young enough to "mold"...infants are better, but they still tend to adopt even up to around 6 or 7 (notice the earlier statistic).

Reality: The vast majority of familes looking to adopt are going to be against adopting a special needs child. There are exceptions, but most are few and far between.

Reality: The American adoption system is messed up, and tend to frustrate people with the amount of "hoops" involved.

"they need to be providing services for those mothers who didn't want to have or shouldn't have had the baby in the first place."

Around these parts, they actually have a number of social programs available for those mothers...but again, we may just live in different countries...

Lynne said...

Sean, I object to your statement about someone who has been raped not being punished. A baby is not punishment. Pregnancy feels like punishment regardless of how one got that way. (I am sure it is not really)

That said, there are women who mentally could not handle carrying the product of rape.

Speaking as someone who has been raped, had an abortion (not from the rape), and has a wonderful child, I feel qualified to say...leave my body alone.

Due to the doctors oath I would think they would consider 'health' carefully before performing a late term abortion.

It is an option women need. Not as birth control, that is wrong on so many levels, butas a last resort when things are such that that is the best option. Abortion needs to stay an option.

TillyLost said...

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/13984932.htm

Mississippi is following next.