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25 July 2008

Bad News from South Dakota


A few days ago, the Washington Post reported some very bad news from South Dakota for abortion rights, freedom of speech, and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship:

In a victory for antiabortion forces, doctors in South Dakota are now required to tell a woman seeking an abortion that the procedure "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit last week lifted a preliminary injunction that prevented the language from taking effect. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood, which runs the state's only abortion clinic, said doctors will begin reciting the script to patients as early as this week. ...

The doctors' script that officially took effect Friday has been tied up in court since 2005, when Planned Parenthood challenged a law that instructed physicians what to tell abortion patients. Under the law, doctors must say that the woman has "an existing relationship" with the fetus that is protected by the U.S. Constitution and that "her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated." Also, the doctor is required to say that "abortion increases the risk of suicide ideation and suicide."

The message must be delivered no earlier than two hours before the procedure. The woman must say in writing that she understands.
It's false that an embryo or fetus is a "a whole, separate, unique living human being." The fetus exists inside the woman, wholly dependent on her for biological life-support. If the fetus were indeed "separate" from the woman, she could simply transfer its care to someone else, just as a new mother can adopt out an unwanted infant. Yet that's not possible -- precisely because the fetus is encased in the woman, unable to sustain its basic life functions without her.

To grant an embryo or fetus a right to life transforms women into slaves to the merest clump of human cells. A woman would be obliged to provide life-support for those cells, whatever the financial, emotional, or medical cost to herself. That's not just morally wrong; it's morally monstrous.

The state has no business forcing women to sacrifice themselves for the sake of a biological accident. It has no business forcing doctors to utter gross falsehoods to their patients to scare them away from a perfectly legal and moral means of terminating a pregnancy.

Instead, the state should uphold and protect a woman's absolute right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. That's the only position consistent with the biological facts of pregnancy and the principle of individual rights.


Christian news services are gleefully reporting that South Dakota is now an abortion-free state because Planned Parenthood's doctors refuse to lie to their patients about the nature and consequences of abortion. This looks like it might be a new legal strategy for the anti-abortionists:
"The closing of this clinic is historic in that South Dakota is, for the time being, the first abortion-free state," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "It didn't take the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it didn't take a new President or a new Supreme Court. It took the courageous determination of pro-life heroes like Mr. Cassidy and the Unruhs who saw an opportunity to save lives and pressed on until their dream became victory."

"We applaud their efforts and encourage other states to emulate their campaign," said Newman.
I'm sure the anti-abortionists will learn from this victory -- and that's a scary thought.


The theocrats are wrong on the facts, yet again. Folks on the ground in South Dakota tell me the following:
The Planned Parenthood here in Sioux Falls remains open, and continues providing services to women and families. This fact has not gotten in the way of a story fabricated by Dr. Alan Unruh to the contrary, as well as echoes of Dr. Unruh's mis-truth in the socially conservative blogophere.
That's good news.

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