In February, a law was enacted in that conservative state that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion under any circumstance other than saving a mother’s life. That’s right, your daughter gets knocked up as a result of rape or incest and she’s going to have to find a back-alley solution if she has to terminate the pregnancy in South Dakota -- and then face the prospect of going to jail, to boot.The law is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman's constitutional right to abortion. It was assumed (and I predicted as much in a March post) that opponents of the South Dakota ban would go to court and the Supreme Court eventually would be forced to reconsider Roe.
In signing the law, the governor said a "true test of a civilization" was how it treated "the most vulnerable and helpless," including "unborn children." But the three worst counties in all of the U.S. for vulnerable and helpless children, that is those living in poverty, are smack dab in South Dakota.
As Ruth Rosen, a journalist and historian, write at TPM Cafe, a funny thing happened on the way to Washington:
"A coalition of women's-rights advocates, reproductive-rights and civil-liberties groups outflanked anti-abortion legislators and took the debate directly to the people, rather than to the courts. They collected sufficient signatures to place a referendum on the 7 November ballot, asking South Dakotan voters whether they really wanted to ban all abortions. If approved, the ban against abortion will remain in effect, unless it is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. If defeated, the South Dakotan legislature will have been repudiated by the voters.Rosen notes that the referendum is more than another chapter of the never ending national debate over abortion:
"Right now, the battle over the referendum is still too close to call. The people in South Dakota are known for their politeness, conservatism, privacy, and avoidance of confrontation. Many good friends won't even discuss the subject with each other, even though activists in the abortion wars, all over the country, eagerly await the results."
"It is also a struggle within the Republican Party itself. The ban on all abortions is the inevitable result of President Bush's success in enlisting the religious right as an important part of his political base. But many Republicans are also moderates or libertarians, not just social conservatives. In [South Dakota] where 48% of the voters are registered as Republicans, moderates in the party rightly fear negative political fallout if all abortions are banned."
Writes Alfred Glenstein:
"So a pro-lifer can support all manners of hypothetical wars that conform to a utilitarian standard of saving life. Fine. You can also in the same way, based on a very long and particular set of definitions of what is and isn't life, come out against abortion. . . . But let me introduce the elephant in the room. [By] any standard, our present Iraq War could not possibly be consistent with any Pro Life philosophy I've ever heard of."More here.