South Dakota. Land of Mount Rushmore, that famous granite sculpture of four of the most recognizable American presidents. They look down upon their dominion with austere ease--they're not going anywhere anytime soon. It's a national treasure (if you ignore the slight snag about stealing Native American lands originally granted to them in perpetuity). It is an immobile tribute to the American people's ability to actually carve the American landscape into submission. Well, South Dakota has been carving more than its granite strata--it's been chipping away at the constitution, and seeking a viable candidate test case to challenge Roe v. Wade. Apparently, the mentality of rock-solid men looking down upon their subjects with paternalistic/patronizing stares has seeped into the state legislature's guiding mentality.
If you don't think this is a fair judgment of that noble Midwestern state, then you probably haven't read the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals' latest decision on the matter of abortion procedure within South Dakota, which is detailed in the SD House Bill 1166. Here is the list of requirements for a physician performing an abortion and a patient that is contemplating or has scheduled a abortion procedure:
The provisions of § 7 relevant to the preliminary injunction are as
follows (emphases added by the court):
- No abortion may be performed unless the physician first obtains a
voluntary and informed written consent of the pregnant woman upon
whom the physician intends to perform the abortion, unless the physician
determines that obtaining an informed consent is impossible due to a
medical emergency and further determines that delaying in performing
the procedure until an informed consent can be obtained from the
pregnant woman or her next of kin in accordance with chapter 34-12C
is impossible due to the medical emergency, which determinations shall
then be documented in the medical records of the patient. A consent to
an abortion is not voluntary and informed, unless, in addition to any
other information that must be disclosed under the common law doctrine,
the physician provides that pregnant woman with the following
(1) A statement in writing providing the following information:
(a) The name of the physician who will perform the abortion;
(b) That the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate,
unique, living human being;
(c) That the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with
that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys
protection under the United States Constitution and under the
laws of South Dakota;
(d) That by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her
existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will
(e) A description of all known medical risks of the procedure and
statistically significant risk factors to which the pregnant woman
would be subjected, including:
(i) Depression and related psychological distress;
(ii) Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide;
* * *
* * *
(2) A statement by telephone or in person, by the physician who is to
perform the abortion, or by the referring physician, or by an agent of
both, at least twenty-four hours before the abortion, providing the
(a) That medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal
care, childbirth, and neonatal care;
(b) That the father of the unborn child is legally responsible to
provide financial support for her child following birth, and that
this legal obligation of the father exists in all instances, even in
instances in which the father has offered to pay for the abortion;
(c) The name, address, and telephone number of a pregnancy help
center in reasonable proximity of the abortion facility where the
abortion will be performed; . . .
* * *
[¶ 2] Prior to the pregnant woman signing a consent to the abortion, she
shall sign a written statement that indicates that the requirements of this
section have been complied with. Prior to the performance of the
abortion, the physician who is to perform the abortion shall receive a
copy of the written disclosure documents required by this section, and
shall certify in writing that all of the information described in those
subdivisions has been provided to the pregnant woman, that the
physician is, to the best of his or her ability, satisfied that the pregnant
woman has read the materials which are required to be disclosed, and
that the physician believes she understands the information imparted.
M.Snowe will make the following concessions, in order to show that she is trying to look at this legislation from multiple sides:
1. It is important that anyone undergoing any medical procedure understand what they are getting into, and most medical procedures do require written consent. Fine.
2. Sadly, there are people out there who need to be informed of certain options available to them that they would otherwise not have known about. Okay.
But here's the problem: Abortion is a unique procedure, in that it is a female-only procedure performed for a plethora of reasons, with implications not only medical but social, ethical, religious, etc. That is not to say that other procedures don't combine these larger considerations (such as stem-cell research or cochlear implants), but we are truly rubbing up against some of the largest questions we all must address sooner or later: what is life, how do we define it, and given our knowledge of it, what form of dominion or control can we claim upon it? These are heavy questions worth the debate that is given to them, despite the ultimate futility of ever reaching a conclusion (M.Snowe would be weary of someone who claims they've got the right answers).
But here's the problems with this bill:
It uses the idea of informed consent to legitimize overemphasis in hopes of "spooking" the women seeking an abortion. When someone goes in for, say a heart transplant surgery, they should be told by their surgeon about the method of the procedure, the possible risks, etc.--this is important. But the doctor is not required to explain what will happen to the patient's old heart, or to make a claim that you are violating nature by taking out what was given to you by your creator (or your parent's DNA). There is no informed consent clause about "your unique heart, and the possibility of forever losing a part of yourself oft connected with emotion in sonnets and romances." A woman knows that an abortion is the end of a pregnancy--that is why she is there. She does not need to be lectured with: "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."
Also, this statement is insanely inaccurate--like the example of the heart transplant, both a heart or a fetus separated in the early months from the body of the patient has no chance at being "whole" or living a "separate" life of it's own. You cannot count the life as a separate one at this point medically--you could conjecture that should the mother deliver the child, the intended life would be lived, but that is not the sense of this statement.
A sad attempt at scare tactics:
"That by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated;"
This is what M.Snowe calls the "eye for a fetus" punishment scheme. It basically says, rather snarkily, that: "you better not abort, or we're going to abort one of your constitutional rights...though this right really isn't relevant, and we're not even sure if we understand what we're saying." Basically, the phrase means that once you abort the fetus, that fetus is no longer protected by the Constitution, and therefore neither are any rights you might try to claim for it. Well, not to be simplistic about this, but: Duh. Once something is inanimate, or no longer living, or no longer has the possibility of being a living person, it cannot be protected constitutionally. This sentence of the bill spirals and is intentionally cryptic--trying to "fool" people into thinking that they are missing out on some much-needed protection, when really, it is moot.
Depression and Suicide Warnings.
Number one: is this verifiable...quantifiable? Does anyone do any studies on the number of women out there who possibility considered abortion, then had a child and ended up with post-pardum depression, or committed suicide? M.Snowe finds that unlikely. This is another scare tactic--and so thinly veiled that M.Snowe can see the hanging noose and lone chair behind the curtain.
The possibility of pre- and post-natal care, and the legal requirement of child support from the father.
This rather horribly assumes the monetary greed/concerns of those women choosing to abort. It basically screams: "You're going to destroy your fetus because you don't want to deal with the monetary burden, but we're going to try and stop you, because greed and avarice is your motive and life force--we're surprised your fetus isn't made entirely of greenbacks." Not only is this incredibly condescending and distressing, the so-called "assistance" being offered is not even comforting, or truthful. Even if, on the off chance you took monetary needs into the consideration of abortion, the state of South Dakota offers no assurance that they will indeed deliver either health care, or the child support. The bill says care "may be available," and it says that fathers are "legally responsible" but never says they would help you track down the father, or help to make him fulfill his legal responsibility. But at least you could rest on your laurels, I suppose.
"...that the physician believes she understands the information imparted."
What the legislators really wanted to say:
"Dear Physician: you best make sure these women-folk know what they're getting into, those ignorant louts."
- Obviously, this assumes that women are incapable of understanding the most simple of terms, although, come to think of it, the bill did just say that a woman was terminating the life of something completely whole and separate, yet it cannot sustain life outside her womb. Maybe it is confusing...