In SD Abortion Ban, There Is No Exception for Rape or Health, Really

Amie Newman

This year's abortion ban in South Dakota is no more humane than the last time around. The exceptions for rape force the rape victim to identify her attacker and test her fetus for DNA before she can access abortion. SD supporters of the abortion ban also claim "abortion is being used as birth control." Since SD legislators voted down greater access to birth control this year, there isn't even "birth control as birth control."

Public News Service has a short radio program on South Dakota’s Measure 11, the initiative to ban abortion.

The segment opens by telling listeners that one of the reasons supporters of Measure 11 feel so strongly about its passage is so that abortion will "stop being used as birth control" in that state.

This would signal, presumably, that supporters want to encourage birth control to be used as birth control. Here’s the problem. The South Dakota legislature voted against a bill earlier this year that would have made contraception more accessible for South Dakota women. It was soundly defeated by anti-choice legislators, part of the same movement that is now fighting desperately to ban abortion in the state. It certainly cements the anti-contraception, anti-abortion extremism the anti-choice movement is all about.

Here’s another problem with the "abortion as birth control" sentiment: there is, and has only been for a number of years, one solitary abortion provider in that state – Planned Parenthood – and they fly physicians in on a weekly basis. And South Dakota already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Women in South Dakota have very little access to abortion services as it is. It hardly seems that abortion is a "convenient option" in the state.

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Here’s another little known "detail" about Measure 11 that debunks the idea that somehow the initiative is more humane than the one anti-choice activists tried to pass four years ago: the rape and health exceptions are no exceptions at all. 

In other words, four years ago supporters of an outright abortion ban tried to pass a measure that had no regard for the life or health of the pregnant woman. It failed and leaders of the campaign (like Leslee Unruh) were berated for their complete disregard for women’s health and lives. So, they hastily threw in the exceptions to an outright abortion ban this time around – in cases of rape or incest or if the woman’s health is threatened. Except, in cases of rape, in the current measure, the woman who was raped has to identify her attacker, prove through a DNA test that the child she is carrying is the child of her attacker, and the procedure must occur within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The health exception? Major organ failure. That’s it. According to the LA Times:

Though the initiative allows an abortion to protect the mother’s health, abortion rights advocates say the standard is impossibly high: the threat of a major organ failure. They note that a pregnant woman with breast cancer, for example, couldn’t seek chemotherapy or other treatment that could cause a miscarriage because an organ was not immediately at risk.

This is the more humane version of the measure?

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