[Marxism] South Dakota moves to outlaw abortion -- state accepts "donations" for court fight

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Mar 2 02:21:45 MST 2006

Will the drive by women's organizations to elect Hilary Clinton
president clear the decks for the elimination -- open or effective -- of
legal abortion to pass without effective opposition.  The limitation of
the fight against the appointment of Alito to the Supreme Court to
lobbying and letter-writing indicates that what remains of the organized
women's movement may be trying to protect Clinton from having to
confront potential Republican "wedge issues." Hilary Clinton herself
seems to be planning to run as a kind of anti-abortion candidate.

Much is being made in some media of the fact that current anti-abortion
legislation criminalizes only doctors and treats women who seek
abortions as "victims."  This was often the media posture during the
days when abortion was criminal outright, but in the end the campaign
against abortion must aim to punish "mothers who kill."  The current
focus on doctors is part of the right wing's transitional method.

In all the talk about the decline and crisis of the Bush administration,
there is a strong tendency to play down the growing convergence of the
two-party system around core elements of the right-wing agenda -- from
anti-Arab hate campaigns to the preparations for war against Iran (which
face almost no public establishment opposition, or at least very much
less than the proposed war on Iraq did ) to attacks on democratic rights
in every field.

And the relatively demobilized response of the antiwar movement so far
to the war threat and the devastatingly demobilized response of the
women's movement to the rising tide of attacks on abortion rights form,
unless they are reversed, part of that consensus.

Fred Feldman

March  1 Counterpunch

The Charge to Overturn Roe Has Begun

South Dakota's All Out Ban on Abortion


South Dakota legislators are taking aim at women's right to choose
abortion--and they'll be satisfied with nothing less than total

In the most sweeping anti-abortion measure in 10 years, the state's
Senate and House voted last week for legislation that will ban virtually
all abortions. Under the bill--which states that "life begins at the
time of conception"--a doctor would face a minimum of five years in
prison and a $5,000 fine for performing an abortion, unless it's
necessary to save the woman's life.

One of the bill's sponsors, Democratic state Sen. Julie Bartling, said
the time is right for a total ban on abortion. "In my opinion, it is the
time for this South Dakota legislature to deal with this issue and
protect the rights and lives of unborn children," Bartling told

Senators voted down a proposed amendment that would have made an
exception to protect the pregnant woman's health. A proposed exception
in cases of rape--raised by a Republican--lost in a 21-14 vote.

Legislators also rejected a proposal that would have taken the ban to
South Dakota voters and put the measure on the November ballot. And they
voted down a proposal that would have kept state tax dollars from being
used to defend the bill--which will almost certainly be challenged in
court and could take years to settle. Anti-choice forces in South Dakota
hardly need the money, since an anonymous donor has reportedly offered a
$1 million donation to defend the new law in court.

South Dakota's anti-choice governor, Republican Michael Rounds, has 15
days to sign the bill into law--and is likely to do so. Two years ago,
Rounds issued a technical veto of a similar bill, but only because a
court challenge to the legislation would have wiped out all the state's
restrictions on abortion until the case was settled.

"I've indicated I'm pro-life, and I do believe abortion is wrong and
that we should do everything we can to save lives," Rounds said. "If
this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into

"Long term, I think this [current Supreme Court] is probably more
amenable to restricting the impact of Roe v. Wade on a case-by-case
basis and an exception-by-exception basis,'' Rounds said. "But in the
meantime, this may satisfy a lot of individuals out there who would like
to see if there is one slim chance the court may entertain three years
from now a direct assault on Roe v. Wade." "I can tell you first-hand
we've had people stopping in our office trying to drop off checks to
promote the defense of this legislation already," Rounds added.

The South Dakota bill represents a new line of attack for anti-choice
forces. Since abortion was legalized in 1973 with the Supreme Court's
ruling in Roe v. Wade, the religious right has sought to chip away at
women's access to abortion, while avoiding a head-on challenge to Roe.
Now, with the Bush administration's success in packing the Supreme Court
with anti-choice conservatives Samuel Alito and John Roberts, some
right-wing forces are pushing for a full frontal attack. "It is a
calculated risk, to be sure, but I believe it is a fight worth
fighting," said Republican state Sen. Brock Greenfield, who is also
director of the South Dakota Right to Life.

The right's previous piecemeal strategy has already greatly limited a
woman's right to choose in South Dakota. Last year, the state passed
five laws restricting abortion. One requires a doctor to tell women that
an abortion would end the life of a "whole, separate, unique human

South Dakota is one of three states--along with Mississippi and North
Dakota--that has just one abortion provider. The doctors, who are
rotated and flown into South Dakota from Minnesota, perform abortions
only one day a week.

If South Dakota succeeds in its all-out assault on abortion rights,
other states will probably follow suit. Ohio, Indiana, Georgia,
Tennessee and Kentucky lawmakers are already looking at similar bans.

Nevertheless, some anti-abortion forces are afraid of the backlash such
an all-encompassing attack will provoke.

Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine the organizations that claim to
defend abortion rights, like NARAL Pro-Choice America, being able to
wage the kind of fight it will take to beat back this assault.

"When you see them have a ban that does not include exceptions for rape
or incest or the health of the mother, you understand that elections do
matter," concluded Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
"We will be very active in '06 and in '08 in electing candidates that
represent the views of most Americans."

Keenan is wrong if she thinks NARAL's long-held strategy of electing
Democrats is going to work. After all, in the South Dakota senate, five
Democrats voted for the abortion ban, one more than voted against it. In
the process of showering their so-called political allies with support,
liberal women's organizations have done nothing while access to abortion
has been chipped away.

More attacks on abortion rights are guaranteed in the coming months.
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Bush administration's
appeal of a decision invalidating the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion
Ban Act of 2003," a law that would ban pregnancies terminated as early
as 12 or 13 weeks, and that doesn't include exceptions for the woman's

The religious right's success in restricting women's access to
abortion--from mandatory waiting periods to parental consent
legislation--has built their confidence to take on Roe. An activist
movement to defend abortion rights has to organize where it can't be
ignored--in the streets.

Elizabeth Schulte writes for the Socialist
<http://www.socialistworker.org/> Worker.

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