Anti-women bigots go on rampage
South Dakota bill would ban all abortions
Published Mar 2, 2006 12:41 AM
Legislators in South Dakota voted overwhelmingly in
late February for a bill that would ban 99.9 percent of abortions in that state.
This includes abortions for victims of rape and incest and to protect the
woman’s health. The only exception is if abortion is deemed necessary to
save a pregnant woman’s life.
The ban would criminalize women who
have abortions and the practitioners who perform them.
the ban are up-front about their intentions. They want the bill to be appealed
to the Supreme Court, where the new anti-abortion justices John Roberts and
Samuel Alito now sit. They’re hoping that the rightist realignment of the
court will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions.
As pro-choice advocates quickly pointed out, those who want to ban
abortion have been emboldened by President George W. Bush’s reactionary
court appointments. But the fact that there was no real opposition, either from
the Democrats in the U.S. Sen ate or by activists in the streets, gave the
right-wing a green light.
The vote was 50-18 in the South Dakota House on
Feb. 9 and 23-12 in the Senate on Feb. 22. Of 105 legislators in the state, only
19 are women. As pro-choice Rep. Elaine Roberts told KLTM-TV in Sioux Falls,
“I’ve heard a great deal from women, but I’ve also heard a
great deal from men saying this is not a decision that men ought to make for
women. Constituents tell me that the legislature is out of touch with the people
who live in South Dakota—two to three to one.” (keloland.com,
website of KLTM, Feb. 25)
This is not the first bill banning abortion in
South Dakota. One was vetoed on a technicality in 2002 by anti-abortion Gov.
Mike Rounds. This time Rounds says he’ll probably sign it. If so, the ban
will take effect on July 1. Planned Parenthood, which runs the only
women’s health clinic in the state, has announced it will seek an
injunction to stop the ban from being implemented. That will send the bill to
In a related development, the Supreme Court recently heard
oral arguments on the legality of the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act
passed in 2003. That bill bans the medical procedure known as intact dilation
and extraction (IDE) used for abortions after 20 weeks. While abortion foes have
used IDE to demonize all abortions, IDE is performed only in 0.01 percent of
cases when other procedures would endanger a woman’s life.
President Death attacks women’s rights
attack on legal abortion puts women in the cross hairs of the misogynist,
patriarchal, right-wing posse headed by Bush and his neo-con cohorts running the
government on behalf of the ruling class. Though Bush claims he’s for a
“culture of life,” his every policy—from the murderous war in
Iraq and Afghanistan to his cutbacks in health care, education and housing
needed to raise healthy children—exposes his hypocritical stance.
When Bush was governor of Texas, he was called Governor Death because the
state of Texas killed over 150 prisoners on death row on his watch. Now he
should be known as President Death because so many of his policies lead
there—from the federal government’s do-nothing response after
Hurricane Katrina to its deliberate slaughter of Iraqis and Afghans, causing
thousands of U.S. youth to die as well.
Though labeling Bush President
Death may be a catchy way to expose him, it doesn’t convey the extent of
how the whole current socioeconomic and cultural climate negatively
impacts—and is really hostile to—the vast majority of poor and
working women in this country.
In every aspect of daily life,
women’s reproductive rights are being undermined and negated. As an
article in the Feb. 23 issue of Workers World pointed out, access to abortion,
comprehensive sex education, effective birth control, affordable pre-natal and
other health care and a caring, supportive social climate don’t exist for
millions of young, poor, rural women who are disproportionately African
American, Latina and—especially in the state of South Dakota—Native
But reproductive rights aren’t related merely to sexuality,
though they include full rights for lesbians, bi and trans women, freedom from
stereotyped gender roles, an end to sexual harassment and vio lence against
women and no forced sterilization. Reproductive rights are a constellation of
social, economic and cultural conditions that allow every woman to make informed
decisions about her life.
It’s really a program for women’s
right to control their lives—a platform of demands needed for
The minimum wage is only $5.15 an hour. Most
new jobs pay no more than that. Meanwhile, the cost of education, transportation
and housing are rising steeply. It’s getting harder and harder for women,
young and old, to get by.
How can you make a real choice if you’re
unexpectedly pregnant and you’re a single mother with a minimum-wage job
and two kids to feed, clothe, educate and house? That isn’t a choice.
That’s between a rock and a hard place.
Wake-up call for
What can women do to counter these attacks
on their right to life? They can take a lesson from history about how abortion
It’s estimated that, during the first half of the
20th century, between 200,000 and 1 million women sought illegal abortions each
year. Approxi mately 5,000 of them died from unsani tary, botched, back-alley
As women came of age during the huge civil rights struggles
of the 1950s and 1960s, and marched against the war in Vietnam, they more and
more rejected their subjugated-class status.
couldn’t be equal with men as long as they couldn’t control their
bodies, women raised the cry for “free abortion on demand.” And they
took to the streets in cities from coast to coast. A spontaneous demonstration
of thousands of women—Black, Latina and white—in New York City on
Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, 1970, was a watershed. Later that year
anti-abortion laws were overturned in Colorado, Hawaii and New York.
momentum mounted as doctors and lawyers joined the campaign. A Texas abortion
case was soon appealed to the Supreme Court. Even though the court had three
Demo cratic appointees versus six Republican appointees, it ruled in a 7-2
decision to legalize abortion, but set limits after three months of the
So religious and political foes began to coalesce. Starting
with the Hyde Amend ment in 1977, which outlawed Medicaid payments for abortions
for poor women, attacks on legal abortion began. Since then most states have
passed parental notification laws and other restrictions. Forty clinics have
been bombed, and there have been more than 100 cases of arson and assault on
clinics and hundreds of incidents of stalking and bomb threats. Seven health
care providers have been murdered, with 17 attempted murders. Clinics have been
blockaded in many cities, including week-long sieges in New York City, Wichita,
Kan., and Buffalo, N.Y.
Organizers of clinic defense in 1992 in Buffalo
believe the lessons they learned then are needed now. “The only way we
were able to defend the clinics was by putting the struggle in the general
context of fighting for health care for all poor and working people. The
thousands of women and male allies who came out recognized the need for unity
and solidarity,” says Ellie Dorritie.
“It was truly a mass
mobilization on the order of a general strike,” says Beverly Hiestand.
“We need to organize a new women’s movement, with women of color,
youth and lesbians in leadership. That will ensure it includes all aspects of
women’s rights—national health care, good-paying jobs, affordable
housing and free, quality public education from pre-school through
college—not just legal abortion. We need to link up with other progressive
struggles, like organized labor, the anti-war movement, the fight for LGBT
rights and against all forms of racism. History shows that the only way to
change things is through struggle.”
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