Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oh, we just have to preserve abortion!! Yes we must!!

Hysteria beginning to reign in SD as Election Day nears. Here's a lovely gem from Ruth Marcus at the WaPo:

My comments in bold

At the Sioux Falls headquarters of the campaign to repeal Referred Law 6 -- better known as the South Dakota abortion ban -- is a handlettered sign that sums up the opponents' case: "This law simply goes too far." Yes, it does. Oh, but partial-birth abortion doesn't "go too far"? Injecting the mother's womb with saline to burn the baby, when it can feel pain, doesn't go to far? But I worry that those fighting to undo the abortion ban have, with the best of intentions, also gone too far in conceding the moral terrain of the abortion debate. Um, what moral terrain? Last time I checked, one side wants to save babies. The other wants to kill them.

The South Dakota statute is chilling in its remorseless reach. The sole exception to the criminal prohibition on abortions -- doctors would face up to five years in prison for performing them -- is to save the life of the mother. Rape or incest victims, and women whose health would be jeopardized by carrying a pregnancy to term, get no leeway under the statute, passed overwhelmingly in February by the state legislature. Exactly how is it the fault of the baby that the mother was raped or a victim of incest? As tragic as these circumstances are, two wrongs don't make a right. Sorry.

On one level, then, it's little wonder, especially in conservative South Dakota, that the effort to repeal the law -- it's on the November ballot -- has focused on its inflexibility. After all, exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest are a staple of even the most conservative politicians' political platforms -- President Bush, for one; John Thune, South Dakota's Republican senator, for another. Federal law requires Medicaid funding for abortions in cases of rape or incest. Well that's something we need to change. Why are my tax dollars funding abortions for poor people? Down with that!

Given that consensus, it's alarming that the vote on repealing the law may be so close. An independent poll in July found 47 percent of voters opposed, 39 percent in favor. But a more recent poll, commissioned by an antiabortion group, showed the gap much narrower, 47 to 44 percent. Four of the eight Republican state senators who had opposed the ban were ousted in primary elections. That's right, SD voters, show them what for!

So if the campaign against the law echoes the rhetoric usually employed by antiabortion forces, that may be smart politics, at least in the short term. "South Dakotans agree: honor and protect human life, reduce the number of abortions," opens a new television ad by the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. (If you're confused about which side they're on, this is the group opposing the ban.) Um, let's reduce the number of abortions by: 1) not having pre-marital sex! 2) promoting a moral lifestyle, like no sex before you're married! 3) if you don't want kids, don't have sex. No form of birth control, except abstinence, is 100%.

Here's the problem, though, with this apologetic approach: What happens next? The decision to submit the ban to voters, rather than challenge the law in court, where it would almost certainly be overturned, carries twin risks -- failure and success.

If the repeal campaign fails, that could incite antiabortion forces elsewhere, not that they need much prodding. Oh my gosh! And we have more babies being born in America! The Louisiana legislature passed -- and the Democratic governor signed -- a similar statute this year, to take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Mississippi came close to enacting a South Dakota-like ban; Ohio could be poised to do so in a lame-duck session. Ooooh what a scary Halloween tale! More babies, which means more citizens, which means more money going into Social Security and all those things liberals love.

But if, as is more likely, voters reject the law, what happens if and when antiabortion forces come back with a version more palatable to South Dakotans? The July poll showing 47 percent of voters opposed to the ban found that 59 percent would support it with exceptions for rape and incest.

"I've spent a great deal of time and thought wondering if it would have been wiser to write in the exceptions," House Majority Leader Larry Rhoden told the Associated Press. Next time around, I fear, Rhoden and his colleagues will. And then where will we be? I'll tell you. We'll be a better place. Yay SD!

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, dismisses that worry as "hypothetical," saying that "once the people of South Dakota have spoken, elected officials are going to sit up and take notice." Perhaps, but the history of antiabortion forces hasn't exactly been that they give up easily. No, because when we're saving lives, we tend to keep on trying.

And this is the flaw inherent in the South Dakota strategy. It abandons what for me is the essential question of the abortion rights debate: Who gets to decide? Easy: God. Instead, it silently concedes that this is a matter that can be determined by a legislative majority considering a more situational question: What excuse is good enough -- or, more precisely, what excuse does government deem good enough? Once the argument is framed in those terms, the right to choose as a bedrock guarantee starts to crumble. There is no right to abortion. Say it with me now. There are no 'penumbras,' no 'shadows of penumbras,' no 'emanations.' I don't care what Warren, Burger, et al. said in Roe. They do not exist!! You have no right to kill your unborn child. Period. The baby has rights, deal with it. It is another human being. If you don't believe me, go look at an ultrasound picture. What is that in the womb? A bug? Hello...

Why does this matter? Because contraceptives fail -- and not only in ways that can be remedied by resorting to emergency contraception (not that abortion opponents want to make access to Plan B any easier). Because even the most wanted pregnancies produce tragic genetic anomalies. Oh dude do not even get me started on this! Who are you to play God? Why do you get to decide if the baby's life is worth living?! EGODS! That argument is what makes me the most angry of all. This woman proibably would have aborted me, because you know, I have "tragic genetic anomalies." Because people, teenagers especially, take stupid risks that result in unwanted pregnancies. Well then they learn to live with the consequences, don't they? If you are goin g to engage in adult activities, then you have to carry adult responsibility. Have fun.

Pregnant women in these circumstances face a difficult -- and, yes, even tragic -- decision. But it's a choice that should be theirs, not one that's up for majority vote. Um no. Sorry. Since whne is murder a choice that "should be theirs"?

And so I hope the advocates of repeal succeed in overturning the abortion ban. But after that, they will need to figure out how to argue against the next law -- one that, under the terms they have tacitly accepted, doesn't "go too far." Oh for the love of all things Holy. This woman needs a reality check. Or a kick in the pants.

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