Last updated on 2011.03.10
In the South Dakota State House yesterday, Representatives Patricia Stricherz, Kristin Conzet, Jenna Haggar, Lora Hubbel, Melissa Magstadt, Betty Olson, Tona Rozum, Jacqueline Sly, and Kim Vanneman silently voted themselves, and my wife, and my daughter (please do hear the anger rising in my voice) into second-class citizenship. These women, all Republicans, voted with the appallingly large majority of the House, 49&ndash19, in favor of HB 1217, the latest increment in our Legislature's endless attempt to ban abortion in South Dakota.
But this is "not a bill preventing abortions," Rep. Manny Steele assured us from the House floor. Rep. Steele said this bill "protects women from abortions they don't want." Prime sponsor Rep. Roger Hunt said HB 1217 is about protecting the relationship between a mother and her child, about providing information and blocking coercion, "all good and noble objectives." By Hunt's logic, it is thus good and noble for the state to insert itself in the doctor-patient relationship and coerce women to submit to non-medical propaganda on a medical procedure.
HB 1217 mandates that a woman make three trips if she wants an abortion. She has to go see a doctor in person, no telemedicine allowed. The state then forces her to wait—oh, pardon me, "gives the woman the opportunity to reflect"—for 72 hours, which is really just a clever way to drive up Planned Parenthood's operating costs by forcing them to keep an abortion provider on staff instead of flying a doctor in on weekends, a good doctor from some faraway place who comes to serve South Dakota women the way some of our doctors fly to developing nations to treat poor and underserved communities.
To help women reflect during that waiting period, HB 1217 forces the woman to make a second trip, to a pregnancy help center which certifies to the state that it will try to talk the woman out of the abortion. The woman must submit to a "private interview"—no father or friend or other comforting member of her own support network—with quite likely non-medical PHC staff. In this interview (you may wish to read interrogation), the PHC staff are authorized and required to discuss "circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion." Whether PHC staff will conduct a meta-discussion of the coercive nature of their own persuasion tactics is an open question.
Just for kicks, the woman must also surrender to the PHC the name of the doctor from whom she is seeking the abortion. HB 1217 says this requirement allows the PHC to send a statement warning the physician that the woman may be subject to coercion, but it's not hard to see this requirement simply makes it easier for PHCs to keep a complete list of doctors to put on their harassment lists.
Once the woman has suffered that ordeal and "reflected" like a good little girl, she returns to the doctor and signs a paper saying she did what she was told. Only then can she have the abortion.
And even then, if it turns out there was coercion of any sort involved in her decision to abort the fetus, HB 1217 doesn't punish the person who did the coercing. HB 1217 punishes the doctor. It creates all sorts of legal traps: signed statements from the doctor, that possible documented warning from the non-medical PHC staff, requirements to inform the woman about "all material information about any complications associated with the risk factor, and to the extent available all information about the rate at which those complications occurs both in the general population and in the population of persons with the risk factor." The latter, of course, is a sneaky way (so much of what Roger Hunt and the abortion crusaders do is sneaky) of mandating that doctors read the bogus literature on post-abortion trauma and other such pseudo-scientific lies.
Yesterday's House debate was filled with lies from pompous men degrading the intelligence and autonomy of women. Roger Hunt babbled on about the normal consultative process of other surgical procedures. Hunt failed to extend his analogy to discuss how the state requires people seeking an appendectomy or heart bypass or even a nose job to see an herbalist or homeopath or Jehovah's Witness to try talking them out of the surgery, or where we require people to go get medical advice from non-medical staff, or where we interrogate people to determine whether anyone is coercing them to have the operation.
Rep. Susy Blake rose to point out that we don't force men to get second opinions when they want vasectomies. Reps. Mike Verchio and Don Kopp both rose to announce they've had vasectomies (TMI! TMFI!) and that their doctors made them talk it over with their wives. You could hear the arrogant wormage from Verchio as he proudly avenged decades of feminist oppression by pointing out that Rep. Blake probably has no idea what it's like to have a vasectomy. You could not hear Verchio or Kopp make clear at what point the state intervened in their decision to cut off their balls.
Continuing the lies, Rep. Stace Nelson rose to say the House had conducted a wonderfully fair hearing process. Rep. Nelson failed to mention that committee chairman Roger Hunt allowed ten proponents to speak but only four opponents. Rep. Nelson failed to explain why Chairman Hunt allowed proponent testimony from his chosen New Jersey lawyer Harold Cassidy but refused to allow opponent testimony from South Dakota doctor Marvin Buehner.
Rep. Nelson then tangled himself up in the lies of the bill, saying HB 1217 will "allow that patient to have the ability to reflect" and to "consult with the people they want to"... assuming, of course, the people you want to consult with are Leslee Unruh.
HB 1217 says women are second-class citizens. It assumes women can't make their own decisions about their bodies, about reproduction, or about sex. It establishes a patriarchal society in which women's rights are subordinate to "fetal rights," in which women are mere vessels for reproduction, subject to government control the moment they pubesce.
The House showed it doesn't care about women's equality or the Constitution yesterday. Senate, it's up to you to get it right.