South Dakota Legislation on Abortion

Author: Samuel Metz

Date: 03/02/2006

The abortion legislation is not about abortion. Itís about sex.

But first, credit where credit is due. 

This legislation is morally consistent. If abortion is infanticide, then it is fitting that no exception be made for rape or incest. We do not kill children for the sins of parents. And every pregnant woman would qualify under "health of the mother," as carrying a pregnancy to term is ten times more dangerous than an elective first trimester abortion. 

However, the legislation is scientifically incomplete. Science has not determined that life begins at conception, but the South Dakota legislators have. So at their next session, we can expect the legislature to outlaw "morning after pills" and birth control pills that prevent a fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus. 

The legislation is also morally incomplete. The proposed law protects the life of the unborn child, but not its health before or after birth. Where are the laws providing easily accessible pre-natal care to women forced to carry unwanted babies? What have legislators done to make adoption easier? How many legislators adopted unwanted babies, especially those hardest to place: older non-white babies with special needs? 

Importantly, what have the legislators done to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place? The defining characteristic of abortion is an unwanted pregnancy. If birth control renders every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy, abortion effectively disappears. 

But we see no laws addressing the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. In fact, we frequently see anti-abortion action accompanied by measures making contraception less accessible rather than more so. "Evidence from around the world shows that placing restrictions on abortion to make it harder to obtain has much more to do with making it less safe than making it rarer, " says Susan Cohen, of the Guttmacher Institute. "Yet in the United States, abortion opponents take credit for the mounting state and federal restrictions on abortion, rather than working to reduce unintended pregnancy to begin with." 

The inescapable conclusion is the South Dakota legislation is really devoted to punishing promiscuous sexual activity in women. Promiscuous sex, we infer from South Dakota, is sex-for-pleasure rather than for child-bearing. 

The ultimate purpose of anti-abortion legislation is condemning female sex-for-pleasure practitioners to compulsory child-bearing - and (in the absence of state-facilitated adoption) child-rearing. Furthermore, promiscuous women receive little or no help in keeping their unborn child healthy or with child care after delivery. This will make any woman think twice before yielding to the temptations of sex independent of creating more children. 

Which is the intent of this legislation. 

Unfortunately, this construct, apparently directed at premarital sex among teenagers, plays havoc with marital sex among adults. It will shock South Dakota legislators to learn that many women have sex-for-pleasure with their husbands. Many already have children and cannot care for more. According the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 60% of women seeking abortions in the US already have children. 

Ultimately, with abortion outlawed, birth control inaccessible, and adoption an uphill battle, American women can look forward only to as many sex acts as children they wish to bear and rear. Fertile women who do not wish to be mothers will not have sex, ever, even with their husbands. 

The South Dakota legislature could add significant moral weight to the premise that this bill is not about sex, but about protecting the welfare of children, unborn or otherwise, with the following supplementary legislation:

1. Statewide measures to educate teenagers about birth control, including but not restricted to abstention. 

2. Increased accessibility to birth control options for all women, and men. 

3. Enable state-funded pre-natal care for all pregnant women. 

4. State financed adoption counseling for birth mothers and adoptive parents, with substantial state subsidies for parents who adopt hard-to-place children. 

In the absence of such supplementary legislation, we conclude what this anti-abortion legislation really represents: male legislators making women who enjoy sex pay dearly for it by bearing and raising unwanted, unhealthy children.

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