Return of the South Dakota abortion ban

The bill makes exceptions for the health of the woman and victims of rape and incest.

Published January 31, 2007 9:38PM (EST)

Conservative South Dakota legislators have the unyielding persistence of a 5-year-old on a caffeine high; if only they held comparable political sway. Introduced today was a bill banning abortion within the state -- except in life-threatening cases and DNA-supported instances of incest and rape. That it's a microscopic improvement on the bill passed last year, which made an exception only for the life of the woman, is irrelevant. It's still a horrendous assault on Roe v. Wade.

The supposedly sympathetic exception for rape victims is sickening in its total disregard for a victim's right to choose whether to report the crime. Within 50 days of the attack, the rape victim would have to report the crime to the police. "Doctors would have to confirm the report with police and would have to take blood from aborted fetuses and give that information to police for DNA testing," the Associated Press reports. That's right: Not only is the rape victim required to report the crime to police, she is potentially the subject of a criminal investigation. At least, that seems to be one implication of supplying the police with the fetus' DNA.

The bill has a similar disregard for the right of incest victims to privacy and to decide against reporting the offense. The woman would have to give her doctor permission to report the crime and reveal the abuser's identity. Again, the fetus' blood would be supplied to the police for DNA testing. In cases of both rape and incest, abortions could only be legally performed before the 17th week of pregnancy. Performing an illegal abortion could land a doctor in prison for 10 years.

The bill's feigned sympathy for rape and incest victims underscores what these South Dakota legislators are all about: destroying Roe. The first time around, they failed to get the measure past voters, so they've made a slight compromise in the interest of ultimately furthering their cause. It's an interesting irony that an abortion ban that aims to be less restrictive comes off -- on the surface, at least -- as even more horrific because of the way it so plainly details when a woman's body is hers to control and when it's a ward of the state.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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