South Dakota Fails in Abortion Ban; Attempts Death by a Thousand Cuts

by Cara on February 5, 2009

in abortion, anti-choice extremism, assholes, legislation, misogyny, patriarchy, politics, reproductive justice, women’s health

After South Dakota’s two failed abortion ban attempts, and previous decisions to enact what are quite arguably the strictest abortion restrictions in all of the United States, I was almost silly enough to hope that Leslee Unruh’s proclamation that she was dropping the abortion issue for this legislative season might mean something good.  But no, sadly, even if Unruh somehow is not behind it (I’m skeptical), some members of the South Dakota legislature have decided to go against the will of its citizens and attempt to put even more, and increasingly ridiculous, abortion restrictions in place:

Making doctors who perform abortions in South Dakota meet with their patients a day before the procedure makes good medical sense, says Sen. Gordon Howie, R-Rapid City, sponsor of a bill that would require such a meeting a day before an abortion in the city where the operation was scheduled.

“It’s just a good idea for a doctor performing any serious medical procedure to talk with the patient some time before the procedure. I think that makes good state policy,” said Howie, a sponsor of SB92.The bill brings South Dakota’s ongoing abortion debate into the 2009 legislative session. Voters in each of the past two general elections in South Dakota have killed attempts to write bans on most abortions into law.

A group of abortion foes refuses to let the issue die in spite of their lack of success in past elections, said state Sen. Scott Heidepriem, D-Sioux Falls.

“There are some who really just want to keep this issue before the public every year, even after failing again and again,” Heidepriem said. “This year, it’s an insignificant issue, compared with the economic concerns we have in this state. And it’s a distraction, frankly, to handling the important fiscal issues.”

Howie’s bill would make doctors schedule a time slot of at least two hours during which the patients could consult on any part of the abortion procedure. A doctor who failed to follow the proposed law would face a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $2,000 fine. Even if a patient waived the right to the consultation or failed to show up, the doctor still would have to have been available for the required two hours, the bill says.

Yup, in a year of financial crisis, and when polls show that South Dakota voters want the legislature to focus on pregnancy prevention rather than abortion restrictions, this is what they want to deal with.

What those who support this restriction are actually trying to do, just like they are with every incremental attempt to chip away at abortion rights, is make abortion ultimately unavailable.  Entirely.  As these folks know, the legality of abortion doesn’t mean anything at all if no one will perform them.  If they can’t win on the front of outlawing abortion outright — as they clearly can’t — they will continue to attempt to outlaw abortion using the method of death by a thousand cuts, until someone stops them.

Why might Howie and his buddies think this is the bill that could finally be that last straw?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they count on most South Dakotans not knowing the facts.

They count on most citizens, firstly, not caring about the fact that such a law would inevitably increase the cost of abortion dramatically.  After all, time is money, and two hours of doing nothing is an awful lot of time.  I don’t think greed is an issue, but the fact is that an abortion clinic cannot keep itself running with ridiculously increased expenses and no increased income. That’s simple economics.

Secondly, I bet that they count on most South Dakotans not realizing that the state has only one abortion provider location, or not understanding what that means.  What it means is that you’ve got only one facility to provide a medical service 700+ times every year, while providing said service only one day each week.  And therefore, resources are already going to be stretched incredibly thin.  If this proposal were to go into law, they would therefore be streched much, much thinner.

Lastly, here’s a piece of “trivia” that I bet you anything these lawmakers know perfectly well, and I also bet you anything most pro-choice people don’t.  At least as of 2006 (and I’ve heard no word of this changing), no South Dakotan doctor will perform an abortion.  That’s right, not one.  So how are abortions performed in South Dakota?  Doctors take turns flying in from out of state.

And so, you tell me.  Is it a mere coincidence that in a highly anti-abortion state where doctors must fly in from other states to perform what abortions still take place only one day a week, the legislature now wants to instate a law which says that the doctor must be available for two hours, on the day before the procedure is performed?

Really?  Anyone expects me to believe that’s a coincidence?

Of course not.  They’re attempting to use the the fact that they’ve already stretched the resources of abortion providers very, very thin with their expensive and time-consuming restrictions to stretch them even further.

They’re saying: if you want to keep providing abortions, we’re going to make it a hell of a lot more expensive for you.  You’re going to have to take more flights.  You’re going to have to charge more.  You’re almost certainly going to have to perform abortions on more than one day every week.  And we’re going to waste every single second of your time that we can.

And if you can’t do that, abortion providers?  Then you’re just going to have to close.

That’s what they want, and we can’t let them get it. We have to fight back now, and we need to start by spreading the word in every way we can, especially to those in South Dakota who have the power to write their representatives and put an end to the nonsense.  Not only for the women in South Dakota who would suffer, but for women in every anti-choice state that will watch to see if this works, and then try it themselves.  We have to show them that it won’t.

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{ 11 comments }

1 Kristen February 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Sadly, if it were a “spend 15 minutes with a patient before performing any type of medical procedure” I might actually support it.

But no…they take a legitimate issue – a problem with quality of care – and twist it to their own ends. Now the whole issue is tainted with their evilness.

Blarg.

2 AshKW February 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Let me at ‘em! Let me at ‘em! Grrr…

3 jovan byars February 5, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Well, I knew that OB/GYNs take turns flying in, since most of them are located in Minneapolis.

4 forchoice February 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm

It is not at all surprising that the anti-choice movement refuses to give up the ghost of the South Dakota abortion ban. Despite the fact that voters have, not once, but twice voted down measures to restrict abortion in the state indicates that the opinions of Leslee Unruh and her ilk are not an accurate reflection of sentiment in the state. Instead of engaging in an honest and open dialogue about abortion rights, the anti-choice movement resorts to underhanded methods. It comes back to the same argument that women, in counsel with their families and their doctors, are best equipped to make personal medical decisions, and these decisions should not be subjected to unnecessary meddling by Big Government. Respect women, doctors, and more importantly the voters of South Dakota to know what is in their own best interest.

5 Renee February 5, 2009 at 5:03 pm

You are so right to point out the incremental nature of the role backs. What they are doing is deceptive because the goal is to end reproductive freedom to women.

6 Jen February 6, 2009 at 12:15 am

To give them some credit, it is a mighty clever way of eliminating access to abortion for the women of the state. They’re awful at implementing their strategies, but at least this time around, they’ve gotten creative, so I guess they get some kind of props (in a completely ass-backwards way) for this?

Yes, to confirm for you, Cara: the Sioux Falls clinic is still the only clinic in the state that provides abortions, and they only do it once a week, and their doctor is flown in from MN.
And yes, the anti-choicers in SD are well aware of this.

Here’s hoping that at least some of SD’s legislators will be abortioned out this year (like they were in ’07), and that they’ll actually listen to their pro-prevention constituents instead of pursuing the goals of anti-choice ideologues. What? A girl can hope…

Oh, and since most of you readers are, like me, outside of the state, if you want to help, PP of SD could probably use your support, either moral or financial (or both). You can become a facebook fan here, or check out the political side of PPMNS (the affiliate that SD falls into) here.

7 Esme February 8, 2009 at 9:28 pm

It’s not only a strain on the doctors flying in. It’s also a strain on patients coming in from other locations, who now must be available in the town with the only clinic, for two days instead of one. Meaning two days off of work, and at least one night of hotel stay.

8 Cara February 8, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Well thankfully, Esme, there is no rule saying the patient has to show up. That’s pointed out explicitly in the article — even if the patient doesn’t show up, the doctor has to still stick around by law for the full 2 hours, just in case she does.

9 Ruana February 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

I think it’s pretty obvious that if there were a shred of truth to the claim that they want this on health grounds, they wouldn’t be trying to apply it solely to abortions. Who do they expect to fall for that rubbish?

10 SunlessNick February 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Who do they expect to fall for that rubbish?

Men.

11 James Landrith February 9, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Wow. A state senator in South Dakota named Howie is pushing this as something that “…that makes good state policy.”

Just ‘cuz Howie says so.

Except that it applies only to abortions, which don’t need a prior medical consult.

Little Howie is lying his butt off, per the norm…

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