Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Weiland wants to focus on the economy, health care, and corporations' anti-democratic domination of politics. He doesn't think social issues will be a big issue in the 2014 election.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Stace Nelson thinks otherwise. He opens with guns, then throws abortion up as the second big issue on his website, which he has retooled just in time for his official campaign kick-off. Who gets an abortion in Stace Nelson's America? Nobody, except for the one in 10,000 women who can get permission from a judge:

Stace is against abortion in all cases. For the sake of discussion, in the very rare documented rape/incest unwanted pregnancy cases, and if a woman's life was truly in danger due to documented medical complications, an exception could be allowed by court order if sought by a victim. Stace is for legislation outlawing the other 99.99% of the abortions currently conducted [Stace Nelson, U.S. Senate campaign website, downloaded 2013.08.17].

Democrats, take that as a cold bucket of water on our gleeful twitterings about Nelson's entrance into the race. Stace Nelson threatens women's liberty, and no amount of reaching out to liberal blogs, buying his Web services locally, or challenging corporate welfare should paper over that fatal flaw.

Marion Michael Rounds is no better friend of women's rights to control their bodies. But whichever Republican wins the nomination (and it will be Nelson or Rounds, unless you care to argue that Rounds and Nelson will sink each other and fecklessly pablumic Rhoden will default-float à la Rounds-2002), we will face a Republican who will try very hard to distract us from bread-and-butter issues with odious claims that our real problems are black Presidents and slutty women who should not be accorded full citizenship.

Rick Weiland, I don't want to spend 2014 talking social issues, either. But Democrats need a candidate who's ready to jam the culture war that Nelson and the GOP want to fight. You need to tell us that you will defend women's rights against oppressors like Stace Nelson.


Elizabeth Rosenthal as been burning up the pages of the New York Times with her series on the high cost of health care in the United States. I mentioned her July 1 article on the high cost of childbirth in the U.S. a couple weeks ago.

Rosenthal discussed health care costs on Fresh Air Wednesday. Her response to Terry Gross's question about the cost of childbirth in Europe included one fascinating and unfamiliar phrase:

...most European countries - I mean it's almost hard to even do an economic comparison because most countries feel that childbirth is a right, it's vital for perpetuating your citizenry and your country, and so there really shouldn't be a cost disincentive for having a child. So even though you could - you can come up with a cost for childbirth in other countries, patients almost always aren't actually paying it. It's the cost to the system. So the cost to the system - or the cost if you were coming from outside and for some reason were to have your baby in France or Great Britain, so anyway, the cost in other countries tends to be in the $5,000 range, often much lower - as opposed to, here, 20,000 [emphasis mine; Elisabeth Rosenthal, interviewed by Terry Gross, "'Paying Till it Hurts': Why American Health Care Is So Pricey," NPR: Fresh Air, 2013.08.07].

Childbirth is a right—I don't think we hear that phrase much in our discussions of women, reproduction, and health care in South Dakota or the U.S. We raise great legislation and fuss about the right to life. We pay rhetorical attention to the product of reproduction, but not so much to the reproducer. We seem more inclined to view childbirth as an obligation; when places like Texas and South Dakota restrict abortion to practical impossibility while rejecting plans to make health care affordable, we seem more bent on enforcing an obligation than in facilitating the exercise of a right.

Does our lingering puritanism about sex prevent us from understanding moral aspects of childbirth that Europeans get more easily? Do we South Dakotans believe women have a right to bear children? If we do, why do we allow the cost disincentives to childbirth that Rosenthal reports to persist?


Ah! Of course Annette Bosworth is a Republican. She and her husband want government to control women's reproductive choices:

How do I add the fact that women are at risk so long term birth control should be mandated [Chad Haber, "Protecting the Unborn," Half Wayish? 2012.12.14].

Half Wayish? is an appropriate name for Bosworth's husband's blog, because in all of his communications, he never seems to get closer than half way to expressing his thoughts clearly. Passive voice, lack of transition, lack of context or support....

But read that one line as written. The husband of a quasi-declared Republican Senate candidate says women should have to use long-term birth control. He links to Implanon, a birth control implant. Uff da: Tea Partiers freak out over the complete myth that President Obama is forcing everyone to have a microchip implant. But here the husband of a candidate who will need their vote is on the record, for real, advocating that every woman submit to a medical implant.

Submitting women's medical decisions to the state—yup! Annette Bosworth will fit well with the South Dakota GOP.


Rep. Kristi Noem hasn't thrown her support behind the Violence Against Women Act that passed the Senate with bipartisan support last week. But she has signed on as a co-sponsor to a measure to take away funding from women's health care. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) has filed HR 217, which takes another stab at defunding Planned Parenthood and any other entity that performs abortions. HR 217 exempts hospitals and entities performing abortions in cases of rape, incest, and risk of death of the mother.

Planned Parenthood received $542 million in public support last year, including all federal, state, and local money. That's 45% of the organization's revenue. Here's the breakdown of the services Planned Parenthood provides:

Services provided by Planned Parenthood, 2011

Abortions make up 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides, just as when Ezra Klein reported on this issue last year. According to the latest annual report, in 2011, Planned Parenthood provided nearly eleven million services to about three million patients over nearly five million clinic visits. By the numbers, Planned Parenthood provided...

  • 4,475,013 STI/STD tests and treatments for women and men,
  • 3,436,813 contraceptive services (including 3,575 vasectomy clients),
  • 1,307,570 cancer tests and preventive treatments,
  • 1,150,589 pregnancy tests,
  • 28,674 prenatal services,
  • 333,964 abortions, and
  • 132,036 other services.

HR 217 only takes away Title X money, which is dedicated to family planning and preventive health services and which by law cannot be used for abortions. The bill would not reduce the number of abortions; it would take cancer screenings, STD testing and contraception away from poor people and would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Like Senator John Thune and other Republicans, Rep. Noem is thus willing to take away useful non-abortion health services to score political points on her desire to infringe on women's constitutional right to abortion.

Rep. Noem will be in Sioux Falls Tuesday noon at the VFW on South Minnesota. If you get the chance, you might want to ask her why she wants to do more harm than good for women.


This bill should fit South Dakota like Danny Glover.

Hey, South Dakota Legislature! If you can consider House Bill 1087 to keep kids safe, then surely you can round me up a sponsor for this public health and safety bill:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to authorize individual school boards to create, establish, and supervise individual school prophylactic programs to promote sexual health.


Section 1. Any school board may create, establish, and supervise the distribution of condoms in such manner and according to such protocols as the board, in its sole discretion, may believe to be most likely to protect the school, its students, its staff, and members of the public against the threat of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and any other risk associated with sexual activity.

Section 2. Before any school board may implement any school prophylactic program pursuant to section 1 of this Act, the school board shall interface with any health care providing organization in its district. Any material changes in the school prophylactic program's personnel or protocols shall be reported to such health care providers forthwith.

Section 3. No school board, in implementing the provisions of section 1 of this Act, may require any individual teacher or other school employee to carry condoms without the latter's free, willing, and voluntary consent. No individual teacher or other school employee may be censured, criticized, or discriminated against for unwillingness or refusal to carry condoms pursuant to this Act.

Section 4. No provision of § 13-33-6.1 or any other provision of state statute is effective to restrict or limit the provisions of this Act. However, nothing in this Act authorizes any person to make animal balloons out of condoms on school grounds.

Section 5. The failure or refusal of any school board to implement a school prophylactic program does not constitute a cause of action against the board, the school district, or any of its employees.

This bill has everything. It addresses the very real threat of sexually transmitted diseases: rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have been climbing in South Dakota at much faster rates than school shootings, and consistent and correct use of condoms can reduce the risk of transmitting STDs. It provides local control, giving local school boards the ability to meet the local needs of their students as they see fit. It provides a conscience clause for school personnel who fret that making condoms visible on campus might send the wrong message to students. And just in case some school district doesn't see the wisdom of providing their students with this cheap yet effective protection, this bill protects gives them legal protection from parents who try to sue the school for letting their kids get the clap by not handing out condoms.

Rep. Rev. Craig and Rep. Rev. Hickey should love this bill! Maybe they can hoghouse Senate Bill 69... since my bill would surely provide plenty of diversion for our health professionals.


Good grief—Pathfinder International can protect women's reproductive rights by setting up a women's health clinic in rural Bangladesh, but Planned Parenthood can't muster the legal resources to protect rural South Dakota women against the oppression of a 72-hour abortion waiting period:

On Thursday, Planned Parenthood said it no longer needs to challenge the 72-hour waiting period requirement....

"Currently, we are focusing our energy and resources on fighting the most egregious part of this law – the Crisis Pregnancy Center requirement," said Sarah Stoesz, director of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. "We still believe the 72-hour waiting period provision of this law is unconstitutional and an example of politicians interfering in the medical care of women. However, we have found a way to implement this provision while minimizing the negative effects for our patients."

Stoesz said she doubts the Eighth Circuit would uphold their challenge to the 72-hour requirement.

Honestly, this provision in the law is wrong," Stoesz said. "We simply are being realistic in what we can accomplish" [John Hult, "Planned Parenthood Drops Portion of Abortion Appeal," that Sioux Falls paper, 2012.12.21].

No, a woman from Timber Lake who has to drive five hours across South Dakota to wait 72 hours for a medical procedure to which she is Constitutionally entitled may find that state-imposed delay on her medical choice the most egregious part of South Dakota's iron-maiden laws. Listening to Leslee Unruh lie to her may feel like a minor annoyance compared to missing three days of work that could have paid for three days of daycare and three nights in some crackerbox motel in Sioux Falls. It doesn't matter if Planned Parenthood has twenty abortion providers on staff full-time: the 72-hour waiting period will prevent some rural women from obtaining Constitutionally protected health care.

Planned Parenthood wants the court to let them drop this portion of the appeal without prejudice, leaving the door open to resume that attack later. But why wait? Come on, Planned Parenthood. Kick your lawyers in the pants, tell them to write that 72-hour brief, and submit it with the rest of the arguments you're planning to bring to court.


NPR reported last week that the U.S birth rate has dropped to its lowest level ever. According to the Pew Research Center, with the exception of a brief hump that peaked in 2007, the U.S. birth rate has declined steadily for the last two decades to an estimated low in 2011 of 63.2 births per 1,000 women.

Pew says the big correlation appears to be economic: the states hit hardest by the recession in 2007 and 2008 showed the largest fertility declines in 2008 and 2009.

Even in South Dakota, which experienced minimal recessionary impacts compared to other states, the birth rate dropped from 2009 to 2010 by 1.4%. (On the really good side, the birth rate dropped 9.1% among 15- to 19-year-olds.)

Not part of these declining birth rates: abortion. New CDC data show that abortion numbers and rates dropped 5% in 2009. In South Dakota, the number of abortions dropped more than 9% in 2009 and another 4% in 2010.

The coincident declines in the birth rate and abortions has a logical explanation: more people have access to birth control and are using it correctly:

...a government study released earlier this year suggest[s] that about 60 percent of teenage girls who have sex use the most effective kinds of contraception, including the pill and patch. That's up from the mid-1990s, when fewer than half were using the best kinds.

Experts also pointed to the growing use of IUDs. The IUD, or intrauterine device, is a T-shaped plastic sperm-killer that a doctor inserts into a woman's uterus. A Guttmacher Institute study earlier this year showed that IUD use among sexually active women on birth control rose from under 3 percent in 2002 to more than 8 percent in 2009.

IUDs essentially prevent "user error," said Rachel Jones, a Guttmacher researcher.

Ananat said another factor for the abortion decline may be the growing use of the morning-after pill, a form of emergency contraception that has been increasingly easier to get. It came onto the market in 1999 and in 2006 was approved for non-prescription sale to women 18 and older. In 2009 the age was lowered to 17 ["U.S. Abortion Rates down 5 Percent During Great Recession...," AP via CBS News, 2012.11.21].

Give people the tools they need to control their reproduction, and you won't see as many abortions.

* * *
By the way, according to the CDC's latest Abortion Surveillance report, 12 women died from undergoing abortions in the United States in 2008. From 2004 to 2008, there were 0.64 legal induced abortion-related deaths per 100,000 reported legal abortions in the U.S. Meanwhile, the United States has seen its maternal death rate double from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 12.7 per 100,000 in 2010.

In other words, ladies, all other things being equal, your chances of dying from giving birth or just about 20 times greater than your risk of dying from undergoing an abortion.


Denying a woman an abortion can kill her. It can also increase her chances of ending up on welfare, living in poverty, and not holding a job... or so say preliminary findings in the first longitudinal study of women who are turned away from abortion clinics:

[Researchers] found that 76 percent of the women who were denied abortions were receiving public assistance, compared with 44 percent of those who were not. Sixty-seven percent were living below the poverty line, 11 points above those who received abortions.

Women who did not receive abortions were also less likely to be working — 48 percent versus 58 percent of those in the group that did receive abortions [Sarah Kliff, "What Happens When a Woman Is Denied an Abortion?" Washington Post: Wonkblog, 2012.11.17].

The researchers find women denied abortions have more anxiety a week later than women who get abortions, but those negative feelings fade within a year.

The study continues, but these initial results suggest we are more likely to see a post-abortion-denial syndrome manifesting itself in practical policy impacts than we are to see the post-abortion syndrome figments of Allen Unruh's fervent medical and political imagination.


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