Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ten Good Dem Votes to Support Abortion Rights; Life Not the Final Word

Ten South Dakota Democrats had the sense and guts today to say that no, really, Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to govern her own body are the law of the land, not subject to the whims or rages of certain backwater states who prefer their women be chattel. Declaring our support for overturning Roe v. Wade, which 60 South Dakota House members did this afternoon, is a waste of legislative time and a slap at women's rights.

Among those sensible Democrats were my friend and District 8 Representative Scott Parsley and friend and District 9 Representative Paula Hawks. Well done, Scott and Paula!

To the seven Democratic Reps. who voted wrong on this resolution, I say, get with the program! You don't have to vote for foolishness like this to win re-election, not in a state that has rejected two major abortion bans in recent elections. South Dakota's electorate has acted in alignment with the most recent national polls, which show solid support for more abortion rights than South Dakota grants and even stronger support for leaving Roe v. Wade alone. With a Republican Party so beholden to group-nonthink (seriously, GOP Reps? Not one of you questions your party's anti-abortion extremism?), we need more Dems to raise the mainstream banner of reason and rights and not capitulate to the screaming fringe.

For those Dems cowering before the activists who co-opt "LIFE" as their all-caps code word (get real: we're all pro-life), permit me to stiffen your spines. Go ahead, grant that a fetus is life. Grant that life starts at conception. Then turn to the ayatollahs and say, "So what?"

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always [Mary Elizabeth Williams, "So What If Abortion Ends a Life?", 2013.01.23].

I will not presume to put words in the mouths of the ten Democrats who voted correctly today. But for those on both sides of the aisle who are afraid of being called baby-killers (you're not, and women having abortions are not, and the anti-abortion crusaders know it), consider the above argument, which jumps the high ground the crusaders think they occupy.

Related: Senator Stan Adelstein and Rep. Bernie Hunhoff propose some real pro-life legislation. Senate Bill 140 repeats the argument, made it seems in a number of past sessions, that we ought to expand Medicaid to pregnant women. What say you, supporters of HCR 2? Are you ready to quit posing and put our money where your mouth is to help women and children and the cause of LIFE?


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.01.23

    It is difficult for a liberal to speak about all human life not being equal. So you see the chink in your armour.

  2. Taunia 2013.01.23

    But can the religious right see the chink in their armour? The women in the article below made a choice, but were so beholden to the standards of others that they had to lie to themselves to justify that choice. Their own standards did were not acceptable to themselves.

    "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion"

    So major kudos to the Democrats in South Dakota who can and do uphold choice for women, even the ones who don't feel at liberty to uphold anyone else's choice but their own.

  3. denature 2013.01.24

    I realize that a group who claims astrology causes global warming without qualms is resistant to being made fun of by the rest of the country, but house sponsors, please explain how this phrase makes any sense: "WHEREAS, technological advances in the last forty years such as invitro photography have documented the clear humanity of the unborn child"

    It's not that you don't know how to spell in vitro, it's that you clearly don't know what it means, that you consider it a technological advance, and that this technique is compatible with establishing humanity.

    Maybe they meant you can tell the difference between human cells and mouse cells growing in a culture dish using photography, but that hardly seems a compelling argument.

  4. Bill Fleming 2013.01.24

    Denature! Good to see you posting. My hunch is that most of those signing on to this bill have no idea what in vitro means. Nor do they get it that theirs is essentially a humanist argument even as most will claim (privately) that it's a spiritual one, all the while missing the essential scientific point: life doesn't care if it's human or not. Only humans care about that.

  5. Rorschach 2013.01.24

    Waiting for Steve Sibson's non-sensical rant. He should be good for at least 15 comments on this thread.

  6. WayneB 2013.01.24

    I'm deeply troubled by Ms. Williams' statement. To posit human life is not equal across all spectrums at a fundamental level invites all the discrimination the Left (and any socially liberal conservatives) has been trying to banish.

    It invites slavery, castes, gender discrimination, discrimination against those with physical / mental disabilities... Oof.

    Our efforts would be much better spent figuring out how to ensure people who aren't ready to have kids aren't put in the position where the decision becomes necessary. Part of that is understanding actions have consequences - no matter how we might like to divorce the two, copulating is tied to our biological procreation function. We have methods to help reduce the chance the former will lead to the latter, but they're not 100% guaranteed, especially once human error is brought in.

    I'm not an abstinence only subscriber, but I am big on hammering into our youth the responsibilities that come with the liberties we enjoy. We need to get our youth to start making the right choices - the safer choices. 820,000 teen pregnancies per year is way too many.

  7. Jon S. 2013.01.24

    What an awful statement. There are some humans who are unequal and thus they can be killed with impunity because they are "non-autonomous" and anyone who has the temerity to say that killing of the innocent is wrong is an "ayatollah." Lincoln was right. "This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert, real zeal, for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites, causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest." Substitute the killing of the unborn for slavery and you have the Cory Heidelberger position. Is there an inalienable right to life? Only if your life is considered "worthwhile." Only if you are "autonomous." You say we are all pro-life, but you quote with apparent approval the argument that some humans can be killed because they are "unequal." So I guess you are pro-some-life-but-not-other-life. I have thought about this issue more than most and some of our world's brightest minds have done the same. They have come up with an opinion very different from yours. Your assault on their motives and intellect and your defense of the killing of unborn humans is most illiberal.

    The most obvious pro-life entity is the Catholic Church. The Catholic church runs the largest education system in the world. The Catholic church runs more hospitals in the world than any other entity. Catholic Charities is second only to the federal government as the largest social welfare institution in our nation. My wife happens to be Presbyterian. Her denomination has an extensive presence in Africa to aid the poor there. Think of the massive reach of Lutheran Social Services and AAL in the upper-Midwest. One of the most popular ministries on the the "Christian Right" is Prison Fellowship which gives comfort to the imprisoned and includes the charity Angel Tree, which buys Christmas presents for the children of prisoners. I could go on for days. The sociologist Arther Brooks has documented that conservative Christians (to use a proxy for pro-life) give a higher percentage of their income to charity than any group in the nation. And this is true even if you discount money given to ministry and church upkeep as "charity." The compassion of Christians (just to take one group) for the poor is remarkable, although also not without criticism (see the "prosperity gospel," for example). To say that opposition of further increase of a program that within the last decade has grown by 46% in real terms (this is the federal number, not our state) is not "pro-life" is to suggest that the state is the only legitimate distributor of aid. Maybe we should spend more on Medicaid. I am agnostic on that question and thus persuadable. But I am not persuaded, and likely will not be, that the measure of my compassion is whether I support this or that government program. Many of us are capable of giving our money and time to the poor, sick, elderly and imprisoned without having to be coerced through taxation. BTW, if you want to stick it to conservative Christians, ask why they are so eager to keep funding the American war machine (up 49% over the last decade in real terms).

    Your a good man Cory, better than your principles I suspect (forgive the self-righteous implication of that statement). Sorry for the long comment and I hope it is taken as a sincere attempt at correction from a friend. I await your response.

  8. Travis 2013.01.24


    I have an issue with you basically calling the dems who voted in support of this cowards. Could it be that they are pro-life democrats living amongst us? The answer is yes. You can disagree with them and say that they should have voted against it for various reasons, but you essentially attack them by saying they are cowards only looking at re-election as the only reason they supportted this resolution, which might be for some, but I know for a fact that is not the reason for all of them. We should embrace more democrats who are pro-life, not ostricize them - that will only push them away from the democratic party and all the good that we stand for.

  9. Rorschach 2013.01.24

    You make a good point, Corey. We can't control others' positions on abortion any more than they can control our position on abortion.

    Some choose (yes choose) to call themselves pro-life. Some choose to call themselves pro-choice. Most using either of those terms would not choose to have an abortion, but most are also not in the position of having to choose.

    Still everywhere, every day, there ARE people making choices regarding pregnancies. For the rest of us armchair quarterbacks considering public policy in the abstract, it comes down to the question of whether we are pro-government or pro-person. It appears that all of the house Republicans and 7 of the house Democrats are pro-government in terms of who they want making those decisions.

  10. Rorschach 2013.01.24

    I was responding to Travis, not Cory.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.24

    Travis, I'll embrace them, as I embrace my long-time Catholic pro-life neighbor Gerry Lange, but I'll also tell them they are as wrong as the monolithic Republicans on this issue.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.24

    Jon, Wayne, it's not an awful statement. It's a statement that life is not the absolute value in this unique situation where that life is entirely dependent on the bodily service of one woman. That woman's bodily autonomy takes precedence. The awful position is for the state to force the woman to serve that other life. We can speak to the women in our lives, offer our advice as we see fit. But the state has no business here.

  13. Jon S. 2013.01.25


    Your argument is historic in the annals of legal thinking. You are arguing for a private right to lethal violence, that private individuals decide who lives and who dies. According to the Declaration of Independence, governments are instituted to secure rights, thus governments must act when there is a clear abuse of a natural right, in this case the right to life. It is not an unjust violation of autonomy to tell me that I cannot go into a school and kill children. That is a legitimate use of state power. Likewise, it is perfectly just for the state to say, "You may not kill that child simply because you find her inconvenient." Your radical commitment to autonomy takes the values of commercial culture and makes them into ethical priorities, i.e., my choice should always rule, damn any consideration of natural justice.

  14. larry kurtz 2013.01.25

    Declaration a propaganda piece and not a legal instrument, perfesser.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.26

    Jon, it's a unique situation. If we're talking born human beings, then sure, lethal violence is not a solution to any problem. But there is no remedy to the woman's servitude. A unique demand is placed upon her body. The state cannot make that demand. A husband cannot make that demand. As long as that child must derive its sustenance from the woman's body, the Declaration of Independence itself does not trump her right to bodily autonomy.

  16. Jon S. 2013.01.29

    I pray to God you have no children. My one year old is unable to live without her parents. I suppose you think it fine if I kill her. This is Rationalizing 101. If a human being is "defective" then it is legitimate to kill it. The retarded, the disabled, all those who are dependent get fewer rightgs. Again, your radical commitment to autonomy goes so far as to justify the killing of the innocent. How illiberal of you.

  17. larry kurtz 2013.01.29

    What christian institution in Minnesota hired you, Prof. Schaff: PoliSci at Bob's Bible College?

  18. Joseph g Thompson 2013.01.29

    By golly, I think these posts have shown me what liberal progressives in America think of human life. Some life is more equal than others, guess that what Lyndon Johnson's liberal progressive administration was all about.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.29

    Jon, let's not engage in unnecessary hyperbole. You know I have a daughter.

    Your obligation to your one-year-old is different from the unique burden of carrying a child inside your body. If for some awful reason you decide not to be a parent any more, you have immediate and viable alternatives for ensuring your one-year-old's survival. But remember: the state cannot order you or me to provide a blood transfusion to keep your daughter alive.

    Joseph, I respect life. I respect autonomy. Contrary to Jon's suggestion that I hold a "radical commitment" to autonomy, I recognize that neither autonomy nor life is an absolute value. Some rights are more important than others. And in this case, a woman's right to make choices about her body supercedes the rights some ascribe to the fetus growing within her.

Comments are closed.