South Dakota abortion ban 2.0

Now with totally untenable "exceptions!"

Published October 8, 2008 9:42AM (EDT)

Remember how South Dakota's 2006 Margaret Atwood honorary abortion ban was defeated in referendum by a (none-too-cushy) 55-44 margin?

The ban's primary liability, according to polls, was that it contained virtually no exceptions. But as ringleader Leslee Unruh of Vote Yes for Life said at the time, like Jason popping up out of Crystal Lake, "We started something here in South Dakota." And now, as you may have heard, abortion opponents there are aiming to get the job done. Which means: The ban is back (PDF), in sheep's clothing. It now makes convoluted exceptions for rape, incest and, when there is a full moon and Mount Rushmore spouts Strawberry Quik, the health or life of the woman.

Unruh (who says that over 90 percent of women seeking abortion are using it as "birth control") calls Abortion Ban 2.0 "more moderate, more reasonable, more of a middle ground." Yeah ... no. The precise nature of the so-called exceptions make the ground it occupies actually about as "middle" as Attila.

According to Marvin Buehner, a pro-choice Rapid City doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, the law, even with these exceptions, would "amount to a total ban." As Buehner told the Washington Post, "If there's a risk of a Class 4 felony if I don't meet the ambiguous standard of 'serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily organ or system,' there's no way I would consider doing an abortion for health reasons. This represents incredible government interference in the practice of medicine."

And from the Argus Leader: "Opponents say the measure's detailed exceptions are intentionally complex and unworkable. Jan Nicolay, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Healthy Families, which opposes the initiated measure, said the wording of the exceptions makes them a complicated sham. 'The physician would almost have to get a legal opinion before taking any steps to help the victim of a rape or incest situation,' Nicolay said. 'That's how difficult they are to understand. They aren't intended to be real exceptions.'"

Over at Feministe (and also at Curvature), Cara takes a fine-toothed comb -- and poison-tipped pen -- to the particularly creepy particulars of these so-called exceptions. Read the whole post -- along with the comments -- to be fully informed/appalled.

If passed on Nov. 4, this supremely unconstitutional ban would likely be enjoined immediately. That's no salve. We don't want this perpetration anywhere near the books -- or, more to the point, the Supreme Court. So now what? Anything those of us nowhere near the Corn Palace can do? Peter Rothberg at the Nation has a few suggestions. For more, visit the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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