South Dakota Bans Abortion

Gov. Mike Rounds has signed the South Dakota abortion ban into law, in direct defiance of Roe v. Wade. The bill bans nearly all abortions unless there is a direct threat to the life of the mother.

This bill leaves me conflicted. I personally find abortion to be a barbaric practice in which the life of an innocent child is sacrificed often for nothing more than the convenience of another person. At the same time, this action was taken rashly and will cost the state of South Dakota millions in legal fees and will probably never see the light of day in the Supreme Court. Had the Legislature wanted to approach this with more subtletly than a bull in a china shop they could have ratcheted up the restrictions on abortion in an incrementalist manner – instead they’ve gone for a blanket ban that is poorly written and poorly considered.

That being said, Roe is bad law – based on a horrendous stretching of the law that relies on “penumbras” and “emanations” rather than a concrete reading of the Constitution. Even if Roe were overturned, the chances of a blanket ban on abortion nationwide would be slim to none. States like California and New York would never vote to ban abortion, and those states represent the vast majority of abortions performed in this country. Those wishing to procure abortions will always have the option of going elsewhere to get them.

There were better options that would have dramatically cut back on the abortion rate (not that South Dakota has a particularly large abortion rate to begin with). Something like Germany’s mandatory conseling law could have passed muster with the Courts, helped reduce abortions, and heped change the culture towards a more pro-life end. Instead, the South Dakota legislature and Gov. Rounds have further inflamed the issue, forcing people to take sides, and passed a law that is blatantly in violation of federal law and is unlikely to ever be grated certiorari by the courts. Instead, the federal appeals court will strike the law down and the state of South Dakota will be out millions of dollars in legal fees.

This was a rash decision that will have dramatic and long-reaching consequences, and will end up setting back the pro-life cause by years. Instead of following an incrementalist model that would help change attitudes about abortion, the state of South Dakota has ensured that the abortion debate will continue to be one of acrimony – and ultimately nothing will have been decided.

The Legislature and Gov. Rounds are now celebrating what will ultimately be a Pyrhrric victory in the defense of the unborn, and their ill-considered law has caused far more harm than good.

2 thoughts on “South Dakota Bans Abortion

  1. “This was a rash decision that will have dramatic and long-reaching consequences, and will end up setting back the pro-life cause by years.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been saying about the ruling. The pro-life movement was gaining ground in the court of public opinion with a litany of minor and ultimately meaningless victories (parental notification, partial-birth abortion). This historic and obscene overreach reveals the endgame of a “pro-life” movement where all of womankind is dehumanized in the name of universal fetal citizenship, a place where most Americans are clearly not at on this issue. The days where Al Gore openly mocked Dan Quayle in the 1992 Vice-Presidential debate for “not recognizing a woman’s right to choose” could very well return as the nearly 2-1 majority who supports legalized abortion consolidates its support towards stopping the kinds of radicals passing “Rapists’ Reproductive Rights Protection Acts.”

    With South Dakotans evenly divided on abortion according to last year’s SUSA poll, and likely far more opposed to criminalized abortion when it’s actually on the horizon rather than a mere abstract hypothetical, this bill would be a big enough political gamble even if it did make exemptions for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. Combine the 19th century police state excesses of this ban with the fact that even fewer of South Dakota’s limited resources will now be available for improving the state’s lackluster public schools and Third World-quality highways, I fully expect a voter backlash to the magnitude of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board purging of last year. Come November 8, Pat Robertson could very likely be prophesizing buffalo stampedes and 100 years of Dust Bowls thrust upon “God-less” South Dakota voters who gave the boot to the bipartisan coalition of wingnuts who want teenage girls to give birth to their sisters.

  2. The potential silver lining for Republicans here is that the renewed interest in abortion will fire up their base. The actions of the South Dakota Legislature are likely to make abortion the #1 issue of this election cycle for tens of millions of Americans. The end result is that the South will probably be just as inhospitable to Democrats in 2006 as it was in 2002 and 2004. Harold Ford’s ability to win in Tennessee wrests upon his state’s pro-life majority having other issues on their minds come November 7. Thanks to Mike Rounds and his allies in South Dakota, abortion will almost assuredly keep the evangelicals in Tennessee on board for Bryant or Hilleary. Claire McCaskill’s road to victory in Missouri will also be more difficult with the national spotlight shining on abortion in the fall.

    I don’t believe South Dakotans had national Republican Party interests in mind when they signed their abortion ban, but like the Massachusetts judges who legalized gay marriage this time two years ago, may have inadvertantly changed the entire tone of the 2006 election season. Nationally, the decision cuts in favor of the Democrats and the pro-choice majority, but regionally, renewed focus on the issue has the potential of holding down Republican losses. The caveat is the lack of exemption for rape, incest, and protecting the health of the mother, which a supermajority opposes….probably in every state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.