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.