Monday, October 23, 2006

Rapid City Journal Editorial: Abortion Bill Goes Too Far

Good news for the women of South Dakota! A day after our letter to the editor appeared (see post below), the Rapid City Journal editorial board came out in strong opposition to Referred Law 6!

By The Journal Editorial Board

There are few issues on which the dividing lines are more clearly drawn and the opposing sides further apart than the abortion issue. Those occupying the middle ground usually favor allowing abortion with restrictions. Anyone could see that HB1215, the law to ban most abortions in South Dakota, would create turmoil because it discarded all exceptions except one - to save the life of the mother. On that basis, we argued unsuccessfully against it becoming law.

We now see the results. South Dakota has become the national battleground for abortion rights. This is precisely the battle that opponents of abortion wanted to fight when they sponsored HB1215. Their goal has always been to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to seek an abortion legally.

Opponents of the law circulated petitions and easily place Referred Law 6 on the Nov. 7 ballot in order to prevent the intended legal challenge to Roe from reaching the courts.

South Dakota voters will decide on Nov. 7 whether to carry on the fight to repeal Roe or move the battle to some other arena.

We opposed HB1215 on the grounds that it didn't include exceptions for rape and incest. Our review of abortion records found that just 23 of 814 abortions performed in 2004 were because the woman was a victim of rape or incest. That's 2.8 percent of all abortions done in the state. Even if HB1215 had included exceptions for rape and incest, it still would have been the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

HB1215 supporters say there is a rape or incest exception in the law, provided that it is taken before pregnancy can be detected. The means for preventing a pregnancy - usually referred to as emergency contraception - isn't effective after a short period of time, three days to 14 days, depending on whom you ask. What about young victims of incest who often don't have access to a doctor, or a rape victim who may have other things to worry about? Once a woman learns that she is pregnant due to a criminal act against her, she cannot end the pregnancy.

That goes too far.

The reason for not including exceptions for rape and incest is because only a law without exceptions (other than to save the mother) had a reasonable chance at directly challenging Roe vs. Wade.

Is it South Dakota's mission to overturn Roe? Can we afford to carry the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?

HB1215 has been beneficial in this respect: South Dakotans are asking and debating important questions about abortion that citizens of no other state have had to answer.

When does life begin? Does unborn life have the same constitutional right to life as the mother - even when she did not voluntarily conceive the child? What does it mean to allow legalized abortions? What limits should be placed on the procedure?

It remains our view that HB1215 goes too far in restricting abortion and that South Dakota can't afford to carry water for the national campaign to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Our position is a No vote on Referred Law 6.


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