South Dakota law requires women to wait 72 hoursand sometimes longer—to have an abortion. Only Utah forces women to delay their health care decisions that long.

Missouri tried to become the third state to impose a 72-hour abortion-waiting period on women. After years defending abortion restrictions and punting on his state legislature's war on women, Governor Jay Nixon finally drew the line and vetoed this abortion bill. Here's how Governor Nixon describes a 72-hour waiting period not quite as awful as South Dakota's:

[The bill] is a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women.

...I cannot condone the absence of an exceptoin for rape and incest in [the bill]. This glaring omission is wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances, and demonstrates a callous disregard for their wellbeing. It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare [Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, veto message, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period includes no exception for rape or incest. It additionally requires women to talk about their unwanted pregnancy with antagonistic strangers at unreliable anti-abortion propaganda centers, a forced "counseling" session that  likely exacerbates the victimization Governor Nixon says no government should impose.

Governor Nixon also smells big-government sexism in this bill:

Underlying this bill, and the expansion of the governmental interference it would mandate, is a paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them, and that government must force them to take more time to come to grips with their plight. That misplaced paternalism defies logic [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Such logic applies to all women, not just crime victims: South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period, plus extensions for weekends and holidays, assumes that all women are too stupid to make their own decisions. (Remember: South Dakota forces no man to wait for a medical procedure.)

Governor Nixon still tolerates Missouri's 24-hour government intrusion on women's autonomy, but he says extending that waiting period is nothing but insulting cruelty:

Lengthening the mandate to "at least" 72 hours serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota imposes exactly that emotional and financial hardship on women seeking abortions, and not out of compassion.

Speaking of compassion, making women wait longer for abortions puts their health at greater risk:

A mandate that moves the procedure to a time later in a pregnancy increases the risk of complications. Lengthening the mandated delay is in contravention of sound medical advice and forces government even further into the relationship between the physician and the woman. A woman's health could be unnecessarily jeopardized by extending the mandatory delay [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Governor Nixon's veto of a 72-hour waiting period for abortion neatly summarizes every point Susan Wismer, Corinna Robinson, and every other woman running for statewide office in South Dakota needs to make about the Republican war on women. South Dakota's abortion law insults women's intelligence, puts government between women and their doctors, and puts women at greater risk of injury and death.

25 comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCullen v. Coakley yesterday that a Massachusetts law prohibiting free-speech activities within 35 feet of the entrance or driveway of an abortion clinic violates the First Amendment.

The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate inter­ests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petition­ers’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of com­municating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposi­tion to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vocifer­ous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively sti­fled petitioners’ message [emphasis mine; Chief Justice John Roberts, McCullen v. Coakley, 2014.06.26].

Great. Awesome. From this ruling, we may logically and legally conclude that...

  1. South Dakota's ban on free speech within 1,000 feet of funerals is unconstitutional... as long as the Westboro Baptist Church can restyle its followers as petitioners, not protestors, and gear down from shouting to simply handing out pamphlets and seek to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations about how God hates fags and killed your son in Iraq because of gay marriage.
  2. Free speech zones outside political conventions and Presidential appearances are unconstitutional. I'm a petitioner, and laws do not trump my First Amendment right to approach the President, nominees for President, political party members, and anyone else attending such events and seek a personal, caring, consensual conversation.
  3. Peddling (petitioning for?) smut at an LGBT Pride Festival within 35 feet of children is perfectly constitutional. As long as smut peddlers aren't blocking the flow of traffic and are speaking in personal, caring tones, they're safe under the First Amendment. Wait... I already knew that... offensive, but constitutional.

I find the notion that the Supreme Court is covering for anti-abortion coercers bothersome. But I can't impugn their First Amendment logic. I will only ask that they extend that logic across the board... and that the beneficiaries of that First Amendment protection respect the civil boundaries the Court assumes petitioners will observe.

30 comments

Readers have asked where Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joe Lowe and Susan Wismer stand on women's reproductive rights. Bob Mercer gives us some insight on that issue by asking Lowe and Wismer what one abortion-related law they would pass, repeal, or change. Their answers:

Joe Lowe: I would repeal the need for pregnancy help centers and a waiting period. Men and women are smart enough to make family decisions for themselves — without government telling them what to do with their private lives.

Susan Wismer: I would propose legislation that encourages safe and healthy family planning for all South Dakotans. Women, their doctors and their families are able to make the best decisions for the future of their families without intrusion by our state government [Bob Mercer, "Lowe, Wismer Vie for Dem Nomination for Governor," Aberdeen American News, 2014.06.01].

Note that once again, Lowe beats Wismer on specifics, directly attacking South Dakota's most recent and offensive restrictions on women's autonomy and equal citizenship. But remember: in 2011, Rep. Wismer voted against HB 1217, the bill that brought us that offense. We can assume from Wismer's statement about state government intrusion that she would vote that way again... but Lowe doesn't leave us assuming.

(Note also Mercer's editorial choice, placing the abortion question first. Line that prioritization up with his May 21 coverage of the Brookings forum, in which he deemed the choice of Lieutenant Governor and positions on the death penalty. Given all the issues with which a governor deals, are those three questions really the headliners?)

80 comments

South Dakota Right to Life flunks 19 legislators on its latest anti-abortion scorecard... which means 19 legislators make the Madville Times honor roll for standing up for women's personal autonomy. The list includes 16 Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Rep. Susan Wismer (1/Britton) and my man Rep. Scott Parsley (8/Madison). Failing to fail are these Democrats:

  1. D: Rep. Kathy Tyler (4/Big Stone City)
  2. D: Rep. Ray Ring (17/Vermillion)
  3. D: Rep. Julie Bartling (D-21/Burke)
  4. A: Rep. Patrick Kirschman (D-15/Sioux Falls)

An A, Patrick? Boooo! Study harder!

Three Republicans make the RTL F-list/MT A-list: Sen. Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings), Sen. Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell), and Sen. Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City). None of those Senators faces a Republican primary; Senator Tieszen is unopposed in the general. We thus will not have the welcome opportunity to hear these Republican candidates educate their base as to why RTL's anti-abortion absolutism is really a distraction from good conservative policy-making.

30 comments

Hey, Pat! Spencer! I'm pro-life. Want to call me a liar?

Dakota War College exudes its distaste for Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) and for truth by running two columns calling her a liar who wants to kill disabled babies.

The main thesis of these attacks (other than political intimidation and character assassination) is that in testifying against an expansion of South Dakota's legal hurdles to abortion, Rep. Tyler is lying when she calls herself as "pro-life."  (The same must be true for DWC's friend and Brookings Republican Rep. Scott Munsterman, who voted against the same bill Rep. Tyler opposed, HB 1240.)

In the over-simplified world of DWC's Pat Powers and South Dakota Right to Life screecher Spencer Cody, you're either pro-life or pro-abort, the foul term Cody throws at Rep. Tyler right alongside liar.

We've discussed this before: pro-life is an empty, mindless term. No one is pro-death. Everyone is in favor of life. We have honest, passionate disagreements about how best to make life better. Some of us think we best support life by supporting education, health care, Medicaid expansion, paid maternity leave, environmental protection, and income support for poor families. Spencer and Pat think we support life best by drowning out such policy conversations by screaming provocatively about abortion. I don't call them liars for that; I just call them wrong.

84 comments

I thought Senate Health and Human Services' deadlock on House Bill 1162, the sex-selective-abortion ban, offered us some hope for rational restraint on anti-abortion laws in the South Dakota Legislature. I should have known better than to get optimistic.

Concerns about women's rights and anti-Asian-American stereotypes be darned, Senate HHS voted yesterday to advance an amended version of HB 1162 to the full Senate. Senator Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls) came back into the room and joined Senator Jim Bradford (D-27/Pine Ridge) to vote against the bill. But two Republicans who voted against the bill Monday, Dr. R. Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, switched and made the vote 5 to 2. Grrr.

There's no convincing the South Dakota Legislature that women ought to have access to a safe and legal medical procedure unfettered by legislative stigmatization and harassment. But among the offenses of HB 1162 is the expansion of South Dakota's violation of the First Amendment through compelled speech. HB 1162 forces doctors to add more state-driven statements to their medical exams, requiring doctors to interrogate women as to the sex of their fetuses, what those women have done to determine that sex, and when they did it.

Doctors don't need this information to carry out this medical procedure and protect the health of their patients. Doctors are being forced by the state to prolong their medical procedures, increase the stress patients experience in the examination room, and ultimately participate in deterring women from exercising their rights.

We still get two chances to beat HB 1162. The Senate will vote, then send it to conference to resolve the differences from the House version. Ladies, doctors, lady doctors, call your Senators, and tell them to back off.

12 comments

South Dakota's anti-abortion legislation is bad enough. When it takes a racist turn, it's worse.

House Bill 1162 seeks to make it illegal to abort a fetus because of the fetus's sex. Like other abortion laws on South Dakota's books, the law insults women by declaring abortion a crime but refusing to recognize women's responsibility for committing that crime.

But the laws backers are going further and insulting a specific group of women: Asian-American women. During House debate on HB 1162, Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) argued that we need to ban sex-selective abortions to check the evil cultural tendencies of South Dakota's burgeoning immigrant population:

Speaking in favor of the bill, Stace Nelson, a Republican state representative running for the US Senate, hearkened back to his time living in Asia as a Marine. "Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia," Nelson said. "And sadly, I can tell you that the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value the lives of my daughters" [Molly Redden, "GOP Lawmaker: We Need to Ban Sex-Selective Abortions Because of Asian Immigrants," Mother Jones, 2014.02.25].

Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), proud papa of HB 1162 prime sponsor Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), jumped on the evil-Asian bandwagon:

Don Haggar, another Republican state representative, warned that the values Nelson observed in Asia had already taken root in South Dakota. "Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was," Haggar said. "There are cultures that look at a sex-selection abortion as being culturally okay. And I will suggest to you that we are embracing individuals from some of those cultures in this country, or in this state. And I think that's a good thing that we invite them to come, but I think it's also important that we send a message that this is a state that values life, regardless of its sex" [Redden, 2014.02.25].

Shivana Jorawar of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum says this anti-Asian stereotyping has been going on in anti-abortion crusades for years. She testified yesterday before Senate Health and Human Services to ask South Dakota not to go down this racist path. She said South Dakota has seen its Asian population grow 70% in the last decade, and these new residents deserve better than legislation and legislators who stigmatize them with false stereotypes.

In an interview yesterday, Jorawar told me that there is no evidence to support the racist claims supporters are using to push HB 1162, or even that sex-selective abortions are happening in South Dakota. Jorawar says HB 1162 could cause doctors to engage in racial profiling: make sex-selection abortions a crime, fill doctors heads with false fears of anti-girl sentiment among Asian immigrants, and doctors may subject Asian women to greater scrutiny and interrogation when they come for gynecological exams. Such baseless suspicions could have a chilling effect on Asian immigrants' willingness to seek medical care.

Lena Tran, a USD student and one of 10,000 Asian-South Dakotans, told Senate Health and Human Services she is "horrified" her Legislature would go down this racist road. She asked Senate Health and Human Services not to subject people like her to more racial profiling. Senate Health and Human Services almost obliged: two conservative Republicans, Senators Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, joined the committee's lone Democrat, Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, in voting no. Three Republicans voted aye... but Senator Deb Soholt walked out before the vote, leaving the committee in stalemate.

When Senator Soholt returns to the committee room Wednesday, Senate HHS will have to consider the prospect of yet another abortion law provoking yet another lawsuit. Arizona banned abortions to select for sex or race last year. Jorawan's organization is working with the ACLU and NAACP to overturn that law with a discrimination lawsuit, saying it unfairly stigmatizes minority women. South Dakota's HB 1162 does not address race-selection in abortion, but Jorawan says the racist rhetoric already on the record in favor of HB 1162 demonstrates a legislative intent to discriminate that would support a civil rights lawsuit.

Senate Health and Human Services reconvenes Wednesday at 10 a.m.

113 comments

House Bill 1180 is an anti-child, anti-woman, anti-knowledge bill masquerading under the guise of fairness. This bill, now just one vote away from heading to Governor Dennis Daugaard's desk, makes South Dakota's bad abortion restrictions even worse by prohibiting organizations that offer either abortion services or adoption services from offering the state's mandatory browbeating of women seeking abortions.

HB 1180's lead Senate sponsor, Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), says he's just trying to maintain a level playing field:

The roles of the pregnancy care centers are to counsel, educate and assist, according to Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor.

“One of my definitions of neutral is you’re not making money at it,” he said.

Some people in the adoption business sought to be centers, too.

“That is a conflict of interest,” Novstrup said.

Planned Parenthood makes money from abortions and adoption agencies make money from adoptions, he said [Bob Mercer, "New Rule Would Restrict Offerings of Adoption Services," Aberdeen American News, 2014.02.27].
Neutrality is the last thing Senator Novstrup and his abortion-obsessed colleagues want. They are trying to corral every woman in the state into the lying propaganda centers their 2011 abortion law authorizes to peddle their very specific, very ideological anti-abortion message.

If Senator Novstrup and the other sponsors of HB 1180 were really interested in helping women, they wouldn't oppress them with a 72-hour waiting period or patronize them with a requirement that they undergo counseling before would making a decision that Novstrup et al. think women are not capable of making on their own. Even we accepted the notion that all women considering an abortion are in such dire need of counseling that the state must force them into such counseling, a wise and fair Legislature would open the doors for experts of all sorts to help women obtain this required counseling.

Why not let the health care providers who know the most about abortion, the ones who actually perform abortions, explain to women what abortion involves?

Why not let dedicated professionals who know the most about adoption, the ones who make adoptions happen, share their knowledge and experience with women so they can get the best advice as to whether adoption is the right course for them to pursue?

Senator Novstrup professes fairness, but fairness would allow women to choose to get their information from the best, most experienced, most knowledgeable experts in the field of reproduction-related services. Senator Novstrup would rather use HB 1180 to block women from such expertise and force them into the clutches of a narrow group of know-nothing ideologues who will use the state's mandate to guilt and shame and lie all the women they can into conforming to their political goal of banning all abortions.

House Bill 1180 makes a bad law worse. If the Senate doesn't have the wisdom to vote it down, Governor Daugaard should recall his experience with the Children's Home Society, recall the good that adoption providers do for women and families and need, and veto this bill so women at least have a chance to get expert information from caring, experienced professionals who just want to help families do the right thing, not peddle a politico-religious agenda.

19 comments

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