A couple of weeks ago, the South Dakota legislature voted, and the governor signed, a bill banning most abortions in the state.
Several links for your consideration, and feel free to add more. The question, as it has been before, is one of tactics.
The text of the bill (HB 1215)
Does the South Dakota ban, or the ban contemplated in Mississippi, advance any of those objectives? These laws set back the cause of overturning Roe. If they reach the current Supreme Court, a five-member majority of which is on record in support of Roe, they will elicit yet another re-affirmation of that decision. (We truly hope that our pro-life allies supporting these laws are not basing their strategy on the possibility of a change of heart by Justice Kennedy.) They could thus strengthen the felt force of the argument that Roe is a super-duper-precedent
And then there’s the question of the Supreme Court’s review of the Federal ban on partial-birth abortion. With the appointments of Roberts and Alito, there are, we hope, four solid votes against Roe on the Court. If Justice Kennedy was serious in previous opinions when he said that legislation could treat third-trimester abortions, then there may be the five-vote majority needed to assert that the right to abortion does not trump every other consideration—and that abortion is therefore, in principle, subject to restriction and regulation. With that crack in the rock that rolled over us in 1973, there is a chance to start breaking off more pieces—or so the argument goes—until Roe is finally reduced to rubble. But if the pro-abortion groups and their supporters in the press can successfully equate the Court’s review of partial-birth with an outright and immediate ban of all abortions, the crack gets harder to open. And that, too, looks like a bad effect of the new legislation in South Dakota.
And it’s the moment when their ideology may come undone. For decades the pro-life movement has railed against both Roe and activist courts and upped the rhetorical ante so that even the morning-after pill is regarded as tantamount to murder. Because the court ensured that pro-lifers’ principles would never be put into practice, they could entertain purist ideologies to their hearts’ content. But now they actually have to begin to deal with the practical implications of recriminalising abortion. And their first step has been instructive.
The South Dakota bill is Roe in reverse. It criminalises all abortions at any stage after conception. There are no exceptions even for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Even where the mother’s life may be at stake, the law demands that doctors “make reasonable medical efforts under the circumstances to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child”. The penalty is five years in prison for the doctor.
The shrewder types in the pro-life movement don’t want this law passed right now. While they agree with the law in substance, they fear that the Supreme Court is not quite ready to legitimise such a drastic step. They worry that the law will get struck down swiftly and firmly and end up helping support Roe, scare the American centre and put back their cause.
The trouble they face, however, is a profound one. When you have spent the past couple of decades arguing that the abortion of a day-old zygote is morally indistinguishable from the killing of a 10-year-old child, you have essentially rejected any possibility of a compromise.
A few more links to disagreements and discussions here including allusion to the statements of Judie Brown of the American Life League:
Legislators in South Dakota "passed one of the most pro-life laws this nation has ever seen," said Mrs. Brown. "It outlaws all medical and surgical abortions without exception; every abortion kills. And so-called pro-lifers are trying to decide if this is the right time to act?" She noted that more than 3,000 innocent babies are dying every day in this country through surgical abortion alone. "How many more babies need to die before these purported pro-lifers will think the timing is right?" she asked.
"We are simply stunned at the reaction of the president's spokesman, as well as the so-called pro-life groups that have questioned the timing or content of this bill. The entire movement should support this law, as well as encouraging other states to pass identical legislation. That's what we at American Life league are going to be doing; we will work with any other pro-life group that is willing to join us in this effort.
"Let's all remember why we are in this battle – it's the babies!" Mrs.
Brown said. "We have the chance to save more than 800 lives a year in South Dakota and to multiply that number by exporting this law to every other state in the nation. Let's roll!"
Instead of dismissing her opponents as non-prolifers, it would be nice to see Judie present a substantial argument saying why those of us who question the timing of the SD law are wrong. We agree with Judie on the moral principle of outlawing abortion. But we disagree on the best tactics to get there. Judie does not understand that distinction.