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.