Roundup: A Closer Look at the South Dakota Abortion Ban

Brady Swenson

A closer look at South Dakota's proposed abortion ban; A Catholic woman and attorney from the Philippines laments her church's campaign against new family planning legislation; Does stress from racism partially account for high infant mortality rates among black women?

Closer Look at South Dakota Abortion Ban

South Dakota newspaper the Argus Leader took a close look at the abortion ban initiative to appear on the November 4th ballot.  The article looks at the specific wording for the three exceptions, rape, incest and the health of the mother and offers pros and cons for each exception.  Backers say the exceptions in the proposed law are reasonable but opponents say they are unworkable making the law effectively a ban on abortion for any reason:

"It would have a terrible impact on a doctor’s ability to use proper
medical judgment, with the risk of 10 years in prison and $20,000
fine," Dr. Marvin Buehner said. "The effect would be to ban abortion

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The 2008 ban includes four sections specifically labeled exceptions,
and supporters – many of whom would favor a total ban – say the limited
exceptions respond to what voters said last time. "The drafters this
time did try to respond to the criticism," said Sen. Jay Duenwald,
R-Hoven, a longtime abortion foe.

Opponents say the measure’s
detailed exceptions are intentionally complex and unworkable. Jan
Nicolay, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Healthy Families, which
opposes the initiated measure, said the wording of the exceptions makes
them a complicated sham.

"The physician would almost have to get a legal opinion before taking
any steps to help the victim of a rape or incest situation," Nicolay
said. "That’s how difficult they are to understand. They aren’t
intended to be real exceptions."


The Catholic Church’s War

An attorney from the Philippines, Rita Linda V. Jimeno, has a great article in the Manila Standard Today that takes a critical look at the agressive role her Catholic Church plays in Philippine politics:

We have seen the Catholic Church dip its fingers into many political
matters and have watched it practically dictate how politicians ought
to behave and what policies they ought to espouse. The country has
tolerated this despite the constitutional pronouncement that there
shall be a separation of Church and state. We did not mind taking to
the streets when the late Cardinal Sin called on all Christians to go
to Edsa and block military tanks until the late dictator Ferdinand
Marcos finally flew to Guam, abandoning the palace. We have become
resigned to the fact that the Catholic Church will always oppose any
move to allow divorce in the Philippines, even if it is, in reality,
giving justice to an aggrieved spouse. And hardly anybody minded when
the Catholic bishops campaigned to stop the Constitution from being
amended into a parliamentary/federal form of government a couple of
years ago.

Jimeno is now watching the church interfere aggressively against a landmark reproductive health bill that would give Philippine women information on and access to "a whole range of traditional, natural and artificial methods of planning one’s family."  The bill specifically states that abortion would remain illegal in the country but Jimeno argues that access to information and contraception could "reduce [the] abortion rate by as much as 85 percent and negates the need to legalize abortion."  Jimeno concludes that her church should consider staying out of politics in this instance, and perhaps forever:

Shouldn’t the Catholic Church, for once, consider not imposing its own
views and beliefs on the rest of the Philippine population? If the bill
gets passed into law, the Church can, after all, educate its flock
against what it believes are the flaws of the law. It can campaign on
what it believes is the moral thing to do. Educating people on proper
moral values should be the Church’s business in the first place, not
imposing its beliefs on the entire country. 


Stress, Racism May Endager Black Infants

An interesting article in Sunday’s Tampa Tribune suggests that stress resulting from racism may be at least partially responsible for this unsettling statistic: a black, married high school graduate, is twice as likely as a white woman to have a baby die in its first year of life.

New research is beginning to point toward a complicated answer that
takes into account life and societal factors such as education and
racism as well as genetic contributors.

"You have to look at this in the context of being black in America,"
said Leisa Stanley, associate director of Healthy Start Coalition of
Hillsborough County, which is a partner in a state-funded study titled
Black Infant Health Practice Initiative. "What is different?"

Florida health statistics show that in 2005, the mortality rate for
black infants was 4.4 times higher than that of white infants. That
number decreased slightly in 2006, but rose in 2007, Stanley said.

Researchers conducted focus groups in an effort to unearth potential social causes of the higher infant mortality rates and participants cited lack of transportation, single motherhood, lack of support from social services and stress from dealing with race and class related biases:

"They’re stressed out," said Terri Ashmeade, director of Tampa
General Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. "This is what is
impacting our community. And I’m not afraid to bring up racism."

The stressors include things such as a nurse assuming you are
covered by Medicaid because you are black or a doctor refusing service
because you’re on public assistance.

The constant battle is wearing them out, residents said. What was
surprising, though, was who was doing the discriminating, researchers

Some of the participants reported being treated poorly at their
doctors’ offices by front-desk staff – many of whom were also black.

"So it’s unclear if it’s racial or social," said Deborah Austin, a
co-investigator and program manager at the Lawton and Rhea Chiles
Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies.

Better training for medical professionals could help, but there is much
more to learn about how racism affects black women, she said.


McCain Playing Games with Choice has a fun series of posts and videos making some light of the serious issue of McCain’s extreme anti-choice stances.  When you have a moment for a chuckle, check them all out.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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