South Dakota Overturns Roe v. Wade

And so it begins. South Dakota announced Friday it would seek to effectively ban abortion, setting the stage for an assault against both the right to choose and Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized the practice nationwide.

Approved by the state’s House of Representatives (but not the people they represent, apparently), the measure will likely be signed into law by Governor Mike Rounds. “I’ve indicated I’m pro-life and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives,” Rounds said. “If this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into law.”

And boy, does it. South Dakota’s legislation eliminates the possibility of a woman obtaining an abortion unless there is incontrovertible evidence the mother will die during childbirth. Rape and incest victims are not eligible, to say nothing of women whose birth control failed or those who simply cannot afford another child.

Imagine telling a 15-year-old girl who has suffered the worst kind of family abuse imaginable she must carry a product of incest to term. Imagine imprisoning a doctor for up to five years because of a procedure he performed on a woman whose life had been shattered by a devastating crime. That is what South Dakota legislators are doing from the safety of their pulpit.

This is a fight long coming in South Dakota; the measure has evolved over time to close legal loopholes blocking other statewide abortion restrictions when the inevitable legal battle ensues. (Planned Parenthood has already vowed to sue the state should Rounds approve it.) And really, that’s what this boils down to: the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The measure’s sponsors, House Speaker Matthew Michels and Representative Roger Hunt (both Republicans), admit as such.

The two believe what many are hoping — that the recent metamorphosis of the Supreme Court would overturn their stance on abortion and return the issue to the states. The timing of the vote, then, is not coincidental; only one month has passed since Samuel Alito first walked the streets of Washington as a Supreme Court Justice, and his conservative values are still very fresh in the minds of Americans.

“I think the stars are aligned,” gushed Michels. “Simply put, now is the time.”

The time for what? Legislating morality?

I am no champion of abortion; like many Americans I don’t believe it’s my business to know how someone I’ve never met conducts herself medically. Do I find the idea of a woman routinely aborting pregnancies appalling? Sure. Does that mean I should force her to have a kid she doesn’t want solely to satisfy my particular set of ethics? No.

Why? Because I understand I won’t be there for the aftermath. People like Governor Rounds tout their investment in “saving” lives, but where are they after they’ve given the child its life? I seriously doubt Mike Rounds uses his free time to drive to the homes of women browbeaten into giving birth and supporting them either monetarily or emotionally. There’s a heavy price to pay once you’ve welcomed a fetus into life, and it’s one I’ve never seen paid by a Right-to-Lifer.

We have enough impoverished children in this country. Instead of focusing on the would-be babies gestating in the bellies of pregnant teenagers, crack addicts, and hillbillies, maybe try aiding the quality of life for those that are already alive. They, more than anyone, are in need of help… and love.

Selective morality gives me pause when conservative elements trumpet an abortion ban. In a society where Planned Parenthood is picketed by the same people that promote war and capital punishment, where is the disconnect? Do pro-life people in support of the carnage in Iraq really not see how they’re at odds with themselves ideologically?

It sounds strange, doesn’t it? We are at a point when people living in abject poverty are less important to some than a hypothetical child. Never mind studies showing a decline in crime in the decades following Roe v. Wade (fewer kids with Beaten Child Syndrome becoming criminals, I gather), never mind the obvious societal problems deserving similar attention. Unborn babies must live, regardless of the consequences.

What I find most maddening is the obviousness of the South Dakota legislation as a means to combat Roe v. Wade. Pundits across the board recognize this as a challenge for the Supreme Court; by creating a law so fundamentally absurd in its restrictions, they aim to force the Court’s hand in reviewing abortion as a whole. It’s quite a gamble; the measure could make it through state, appellate and federal courts — a multiyear process — only to be ignored by the Supreme Court. But proponents of this bill are guessing it won’t be, and they’re pinning all their hopes and fears on the possibility the issue will be revisited.

Meanwhile, both Planned Parenthood (the only administrator of abortions in South Dakota) and the bill’s sponsors will waste millions in legal fees combatting each other over this useless bill, millions that could be poured into education and food programs for children, infrastructure for the state and economy for all Americans. It’s sickening to see what I consider a largely religious attack on personal values drain so much money from state and non-profit coffers. There are better uses of money.

In the end, outlawing abortion will solve nothing. People determined to get an abortion will have an abortion. Like the “war on drugs,” a ban will only push desperate people into unlicensed and unsanitary conditions. Who is looking out for the health of the mother then? I’m guessing not pro-lifers who insist on the sanctity of life… when it suits their agenda.

If South Dakota (and later America) succeeds in a ban on abortion, the ranks of the poor will swell while those priviledged few who can afford to fly to less puritanical countries will still terminate their pregnancies — even if they are the daughters of prominent politicians who championed such sin.

Morality is entirely subjective, after all.