Open Season on Abortion Providers in South Dakota (and on Women Everywhere)

BlogHer Original Post

Open SeasonGrab your weapons and camo, abortion foes, because it is hunting season in South Dakota. I found out about it through Facebook. My (generally non-political) friend's status read, "Have we gone COMPLETELY insane?" and she linked to a Mother Jones story about a bill under consideration in South Dakota that would re-define the murder of abortion providers as "justifiable homicide."

Except that we have been pretty damn close to completely insane when it comes to reproductive health for a while now. While people may be horrified at the extremeness of this bill, why are we surprised? Legislation introduced in Congress and in states around the country was a pretty good indication that this was coming. A few weeks ago, the House introduced HR 3, a bill that said that not all rape is forcible as a way to ensure that women who were raped could not use Medicaid funds if they needed an abortion as a result of being raped. Another bill, HR 358, stipulates that emergency room and other hospital and health personnel may refuse emergency care if they disagree with what is needed to be done, even if the woman will die as a result.

What's insidiously clever about these bills, though, is that they include shocking extremes, which capture the public's attention and divert us from other vile parts of the bills. The South Dakota horror show goes beyond saying it is OK to kill abortion providers. It also mandates 72 hour (yeah, 3 full days) waiting periods between the time the woman arrives at the clinic or hospital to get an abortion and the time when she can receive it. (You know, so she can think it over since these are rash decisions and women are so impulsive about our health care.) However, if the woman already needed to take a day off work to travel to one of the whopping two clinics that offer abortion in the state (76% of women in South Dakota live in a county with no abortion services), now she will need to go home and repeat that process again, which she may or may not be able to afford. Additionally, the bill requires the doctor to "develop an analysis of 'risk factors associated with abortion' for each woman." How about also presenting the risk factors of pregnancy and birth for each women, since far, far more women have health complications or die during pregnancy and child birth than in abortions? 78% of women who were pregnant in South Dakota had live births, and 6% had an induced abortion in 2008. The CDC reported that one-third of pregnant women experience complications from pregnancy and more than two women die every day. (Perhaps if women had real information, though, more would opt to have abortions. Who knows? Certainly we should not give women information that would let them make decisions based on what is best for them!)

The "rape clause" in HR 3 was ultimately dropped, but the rest of bill imposed special taxes on insurance policies that cover abortion services. Even though this is unreasonable, the supporters of the bill can claim that they are negotiating in good faith because they will now allow rape victims to access abortion services. Unless, of course, they require emergency abortion services. Then hospitals can turn them away. Think it won't happen? It already does. Even in cases cases where there is no medical treatment that would allow troubled pregnancies to continue, some hospitals and medical "professionals" routinely deny or delay treatment to women, endangering their lives. HR 358 gives these providers carte blanche to kill women as much as the South Dakota bill encourages lunatics to murder abortion providers. It's slightly less lurid, though, so there is less attention, allowing it to slip through.

So, have we gone COMPLETELY insane? I sadly conclude that we have, and I am not surprised at all.

Suzanne also blogs at CUSS and Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.

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