Friday, November 03, 2006

At Stake: Choice in South Dakota

Earlier this year, the city fathers (and mothers) in South Dakota unanimously passed a bill that would ban abortion with the only exception being those few cases where the mother's life is in danger. Additionally, if passed the law will criminalize not merely the procedure itself, but those health care providers who perform abortions.

Amidst the scramble to keep up with charges from this camp or that, stay on top of election results in key races, as well as speculate about which candidate will have to pass the endurance test for humiliation next, it appears the mainstream media, and blogosphere, has lost sight of what may be the most important vote of all, a battle of wills now taking place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where people will go to the polls, on Tuesday, to decide whether or not to make the most draconian, and prohibitive anti-abortion legislation ever proposed law in that state. If the ban passes, Planned Parenthood, and others, have already promised a lawsuit which would, no doubt, go to the Supreme Court, and give the Court a long-awaited opportunity to challenge Roe v. Wade.

But what's different about this debate about abortion is not the objective, but that both sides are using the same argument, namely, that their position "protects women's health." One prominent campaign Web site, "Support Women's Health," posts ads in which women describe how having an abortion ruined their physical, and mental health. By way of contrast, The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which opposes the ban, also claims that prohibiting abortion in cases of incest, and rape would also jeopardize women's health. (AP)

"Abortion hurts women," a slogan one repeatedly sees in the South Dakota abolitionist campaign, followed by a litany of medical, and psychological horror stories from women who underwent the procedure which signals a national trend in which groups like Operation Outcry present women who had abortions, and now "confess" that it hasn't helped, but hurt them. My experience, personally and with thousands of other women, is that abortion under any circumstances doesn't typically leave you a better woman," says Georgette Forney, the Pennsylvania leader of the group called "Silent No More." (AP)

And, undoubtedly, Forney is right; "abortion under any circumstances" may not leave one a better person, but will coercing a woman to follow through with a pregnancy that resulted from rape, or incest leave her "a better woman?" Moreover, will handcuffing, and taking the nurse and doctor who performed her procedure make us a better society?

The good news out of South Dakota yesterday is that, according to an independent poll reported by the Associated Press, 52% of those surveyed oppose the ban while only 42% are in favor of the law, the most stringent of its kind, which would all but prohibit abortion in that state. The bad news is that 36% of those surveyed believe the ban doesn't apply in the case of rape and incest. So, while they're on opposing sides of the argument, both the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps in South Dakota are doing a disservice to their constituency when they use medical spin to their advantage, and not as a tool to educate voters, and the nation at large, about the real risk here, which is not a woman's health, but a human right to self-determination.

With their vote on this restrictive law, South Dakota may well be handing the Supreme Court a lightning rod, and it's time those of us who want to protect, and preserve affirmative action, and choice, to now turn our attention away from the Playmate of the Month ad in the Tennessee campaign, and focus instead on what is happening in this small midwest town. While Sioux Falls may seem light years away from Washington, D.C., as goes Rome so goes Pompeii