In SD Abortion Ban, There Is No Exception for Rape or Health, Really

Public News Service has a short radio program on South Dakota’s Measure 11, the initiative to ban abortion.

The segment opens by telling listeners that one of the reasons supporters of Measure 11 feel so strongly about its passage is so that abortion will "stop being used as birth control" in that state.

This would signal, presumably, that supporters want to encourage birth control to be used as birth control. Here’s the problem. The South Dakota legislature voted against a bill earlier this year that would have made contraception more accessible for South Dakota women. It was soundly defeated by anti-choice legislators, part of the same movement that is now fighting desperately to ban abortion in the state. It certainly cements the anti-contraception, anti-abortion extremism the anti-choice movement is all about.

Here’s another problem with the "abortion as birth control" sentiment: there is, and has only been for a number of years, one solitary abortion provider in that state – Planned Parenthood – and they fly physicians in on a weekly basis. And South Dakota already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Women in South Dakota have very little access to abortion services as it is. It hardly seems that abortion is a "convenient option" in the state.

Here’s another little known "detail" about Measure 11 that debunks the idea that somehow the initiative is more humane than the one anti-choice activists tried to pass four years ago: the rape and health exceptions are no exceptions at all. 

In other words, four years ago supporters of an outright abortion ban tried to pass a measure that had no regard for the life or health of the pregnant woman. It failed and leaders of the campaign (like Leslee Unruh) were berated for their complete disregard for women’s health and lives. So, they hastily threw in the exceptions to an outright abortion ban this time around – in cases of rape or incest or if the woman’s health is threatened. Except, in cases of rape, in the current measure, the woman who was raped has to identify her attacker, prove through a DNA test that the child she is carrying is the child of her attacker, and the procedure must occur within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The health exception? Major organ failure. That’s it. According to the LA Times:

Though the initiative allows an abortion to protect the mother’s health, abortion rights advocates say the standard is impossibly high: the threat of a major organ failure. They note that a pregnant woman with breast cancer, for example, couldn’t seek chemotherapy or other treatment that could cause a miscarriage because an organ was not immediately at risk.

This is the more humane version of the measure?

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  • invalid-0

    The procedure must occur within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy? That’s seriously codified into this ridiculous measure? The only abortion provider in the state of South Dakota only provides abortions until thirteen and a half weeks of pregnancy. That’s just WEIRD.

    Thanks for the information. I’m just more horrified every time I hear about this. I wish I were in South Dakota so I could help out.

  • invalid-0

    How ironic that the religious right’s notion of laws designed to protect a woman’s health in a ‘pro-life’ nation so closely resembles the ‘organ failure or death’ definition of torture of the Bush administration.
    As for the rape exceptions, apparently republicans believe that rape victims should not only be forced to pay for processing their own forensic evidence we also must solve the crime also.

  • invalid-0

    Even the Catholic Church allows pregnant women with cancer to undergo chemotherapy, even if it will kill the embryo. (Their rationale is that the procedure has to be about abortion for it to count.)

    So never mind if you die so long as you do your job as an incubator.

    And what about women who can’t identify their attackers? And I suppose the state of SD will conduct speedy DNA tests at the government’s expense.

  • invalid-0

    …that was the one part of this article I found misleading. The text of the initiative on that point is:

    “The report shall include the name, address, and date of birth of the woman, and, to the best of the woman’s ability, the date or dates of the reported rape or incest, the location where it occurred, and either the name and address of the perpetrator, if known, or, if not known, a description of the perpetrator and, in the case of incest, a description of the relationship between the pregnant woman and the perpetrator;”

    So, so far as I understand it, the woman has to indentify the rapist to the best of her ability. If she can’t identify her attacker, I don’t THINK that makes it illegal.

    Although has an interesting point on the DNA testing requirement:

    “To qualify for the rape or incest “exception”, doctors must be able to collect a tissue sample after the abortion. It is doubtful that this could be accomplished if the woman chooses to have a medication abortion (RU 486) in which the pregnancy ends, like a miscarriage, at home. Women who are ending a pregnancy caused by rape or incest may not be able to choose a medication abortion, even though for many women this is a far preferable method as it can be accessed in the very early weeks of pregnancy. “

  • invalid-0

    for posting the full text. While it does clarify that the woman need not identify her attacker by name, what if she cannot give a description of her attacker? The underlying premise, as far as I’m concerned, is the same thing: it is not enough for a woman to say she’s been raped; she must provide, according to anti-choice forces, a description of her assailant to "prove" that her horrendous situation is horrendous enough to warrant an abortion – that which is already legal according to Roe v. Wade?

    I still say that is no exception at all. To force a woman to offer up a description of the man that raped her in order to "allow" her to make the decisions she feels are best for her body and her life is simply abusive. 

    I appreciate the added information, Airina. 


    Amie Newman

    Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

  • invalid-0

    why we just can’t have our right to choose? What happened with separation of church and state in this country? They are taking away our rights one at a time. Why women who choose to have an abortion cannot do that? Why we have to be forced into breeding?

  • invalid-0

    Rachel Maddow is reporting that the SD initiative is going down to defeat.

  • mellankelly1

    YAY!  I hear the eggs-as-persons crap is going down hard too!