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Did South Dakota Do More Harm Than Good?

Adding to Ivy’s post from earlier on South Dakota’s new abortion law, I’ve collected reactions from several interest groups (who were about as prepared for this news as Republicans in Washington were for the line-item veto announcement).

Here’s a sampling (with my comments at bottom):

American Life League’s Judie Brown

“American Life League welcomes the South Dakota bill which outlaws all medical and surgical abortions in the state without exception (despite news reports claiming there is an exception for life of the mother).

“We are particularly encouraged that the bill specifically defines a human being’s life in the womb as beginning at fertilization.

“Planned Parenthood has already announced its intention to challenge the bill in court. It is possible that this challenge may make it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. We are praying that the U.S. Supreme Court will use this bill, and its definition of a human being, and as a vehicle to declare the personhood of pre-born children in the womb beginning at fertilization.

“We disagree with those who worry that the timing is not right for the bill. We firmly believe that it is the responsibility of the pro-life movement to always push as hard as possible for full protection of every baby in the womb. As much as we humans try to convince ourselves that we can determine the exact time when certain legislation should be passed, the reality is that it is God’s time that is important.

“We pray that God will use the efforts of the people in South Dakota and other states to bring a full recognition of the personhood of every human being from its point of creation to its natural death.”

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins

"This is how our system of government should work. The elected representatives of the people set policy that is reflective of the people they represent. For far too long, elected leaders have based their policy decisions upon how a judge or judges might react to the enacted policy. The South Dakota legislature sent a bold statement to the rest of the nation that the day of judicial intimidation is over; human life will be protected in South Dakota.

"The passage of this law is a reflection of growing pro-life sentiment across the country and points toward a post-Roe era. Technology and information about embryonic and prenatal development have steadily overcome the myths and lies about abortion and the millions of babies whose lives have been destroyed by it. Give the people or their elected representatives a voice and you will find that most of America wants major changes in the abortion-on-demand regime that has stood only by judicial fiat for 33 years."

Fidelis’ Joseph Cella

“South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds has joined his state legislature in making South Dakota the most progressive state in the nation when it comes to protecting women. The prayers of millions of women who have suffered from abortion were answered today. It is a sign of hope for women across America.”

“There is little doubt that Planned Parenthood will do everything possible to block this law and protect their abortion business. The South Dakota legislature understood the likelihood of a court challenge and knows that the law is almost certain to be blocked while it makes its way through the court system. However, the aim of the legislation was to urge the Supreme Court to readdress Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states. The growing number of states now looking to prohibit abortion is significant.

“The truth about Planned Parenthood and the fraud they have perpetrated against women for years must be addressed by the Supreme Court.”

Liberty Counsel’s Mathew D. Staver

"I applaud the governor and the legislature for extending life and liberty to all Americans, including our unborn. To the skeptics that say some legislation is premature, I say that this legislation is long overdue. We can no longer remain silent while our children are killed, women are exploited, and our families are destroyed by abortion. One day we will look with shame on our history of legal abortion since 1973. I believe in the near future, Roe v. Wade will be overturned and the right to life for all people will be firmly protected by our laws."

Perhaps what I find most interesting is the lack of concern among these groups about the potential for South Dakota’s law to do more harm than good. Obviously, it’s too soon to know how the courts will rule on this law, but should it move on a fast-track to the Supreme Court (with its current makeup), conservatives will be disappointed with the outcome.

Personally, as I’ve written about in the case of Michigan, I’d rather see pro-lifers take baby steps (parental notification, outlawing partial-birth abortion, etc.) instead of putting all the eggs in one basket. A gradual approach over time is a safer route to achieving the ultimate outcome.

Judie Brown would certainly disagree with my logic, but the last time I checked, Americans’ attitude about abortion was NOT so overwhelmingly pro-life that she can bank on widespread public support—not yet anyway.

UPDATE — March 7: You can say I predicted it. The Associated Press reports today, "Some Abortion Foes Question Tactics After South Dakota Opts for All-Out Ban." Here’s an excerpt from the article:

South Dakota has opted for a sweeping abortion ban and Mississippi may soon follow, but for now, few other states seem eager to join in an all-out challenge of Roe v. Wade. Instead, many legislatures continue to chip away at abortion access while awaiting the outcome of legal and electoral showdowns.

In Missouri, the anti-abortion governor and largest anti-abortion group have expressed tactical doubts about a new proposal to prohibit most abortions. In Georgia and Oklahoma, states where anti-abortion sentiment is high, lawmakers are debating bills that would add new hurdles for women seeking abortion but are not considering bans.

Even some anti-abortion activists elated by South Dakota’s new law are unsure whether it will survive the legal challenges that could put it before the U.S. Supreme Court.

I certainly don’t have the answer for pro-lifers, but whatever route they take ought to be planned and coordinated. 

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Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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