Who Is Trying To Take Your Reproductive Rights Away This Week? South Carolina, South Dakota And WHOO Iowa!
Can we go one week without some state or states trying to ban abortion or otherwise limit reproductive rights? Because it has really been quite a whirlwind this year. Heartbeat bills, "born alive" bills, forced ultrasounds, ridiculous abortion hotlines, laws that will allow any chump who claims to be the father of your child to sue you to keep you from having an abortion. There are truly a cornucopia of ways the government hopes to get up inside your uterus in 2021, and it just keeps going.
On Wednesday, a South Dakota House committee gave its unanimous support to a bill proposed by Governor Kristi Noem that would prohibit doctors from performing abortions if the patient receiving the abortion says they are having it because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome — suggesting that if that is the choice they make, it is akin to genocide of people with Down syndrome. Which, you know, it's not.
While those who abort children with Down syndrome will not be prosecuted, the law would allow for them (or other "survivors" of the "deceased unborn") to bring charges against the doctor who performed the abortion after they said they were aborting because the fetus had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Where there has been an intentional, knowing, or negligent failure to comply with the provisions of this Act, a pregnant woman who undergoes an abortion, or her survivors, may bring a civil action, and obtain liquidated damages in the amount of ten thousand dollars, plus reasonable attorney's fees and costs jointly and severally from the physician who performed the abortion and the abortion facility where the abortion was performed.
This amount shall be in addition to any damages that the woman or survivors may be entitled to receive under any common law or statutory provisions, to the extent that she sustains any injury. This amount shall also be in addition to the amounts that the woman or other survivors of the deceased unborn child may be entitled to receive under any common law or statutory provisions, including the wrongful death statutes of this state.
Part of what goes into the decision to have an abortion is whether or not people feel they can take care of the child or guarantee that child a good life. A special needs child is not something everyone is capable of handling, emotionally or financially. It is often a lifetime commitment, and there are a lot of developmentally disabled adults who are not properly cared for. There have also been well-known cases where developmentally or physically disabled children have been abused by those who adopted them. There are lots of situations where adoption turns out great, but in many scenarios — particularly ones in which the adoptive parents have a savior complex — it is not without its problems.
There are a few reasons why Noem and others have taken this particular tack in their war on reproductive freedoms, when congenital abnormalities are not actually particularly high on the list of reasons why people have abortions. It is an issue that tugs on the heart strings of people who don't think about anything too deeply and highlights the supposed cruelty and selfishness of those who have abortions. They choose Down syndrome instead of other congenital anomalies that are more more severe in appearance or more likely to include serious health problems and physical pain. They're not going after parents who abort fetuses with Edward Syndrome or Patau Syndrome, because not wanting to bring a child into this world only to have them not be able to survive more than a few days is a thing people are more likely to sympathize with.
The committee meeting drew emotional and charged testimony from people with Down syndrome and their families, who described the contributions they make to their communities.
"I hope I have helped many have a wonderful life," said Katie Shaw, a 35-year-old woman with Down syndrome from Indianapolis.
After proponents of the ban vilified abortions motivated by a Down syndrome diagnosis as "eugenics," the entire House committee, including two Democrats, pushed the bill to the full House. Because it received unanimous approval, it could breeze through the House without debate.
But probably the main reason they're doing this is because they want to erode the "right to privacy" that Roe is built on. The goal is to erode that trust between doctor and patient, to make doctors inherently distrustful of patients. To make it so there is no "right to privacy" between a person and their doctor. Because if there is no right to privacy, there is no Roe.
Also this week, on Thursday, the governor of South Carolina signed a bill that would make most abortions illegal. "This is a great day. It's a happy day," Republican Governor Henry McMaster — a cisgender man who will never be pregnant — said while signing the bill. "There a lot of happy hearts beating right now." The signing took place at a packed event, during a pandemic, filled with people with "happy hearts" who just really care about life. Except for those who have already been born.
For people who actually do care about the lives of the born, it was not a very happy day at all.
The "South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act" requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus. If one is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest or the mother's life is in danger.
The bill would not punish a pregnant woman for getting an illegal abortion, but the person who performed the abortion could be charged with a felony, sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000 if found guilty.
Again, they do it this way because they know where people's sympathies lie and because they want to create a contentious and distrustful relationship between doctors and patients. The narrative they're looking to create — as with giving patients the opportunity to rat out their doctors for performing abortions on them after they said the reason for the abortion was that the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome — is that people in desperate situations who don't know any better are being taken advantage of by evil, underhanded abortion providers out to make a buck. Because they are aware that it is not a good look to throw these people in prison. Allowing them to die from complications from a self-induced abortion if they can't access a safe one, however, is totally fine.
This, like all the other abortion restrictions popping up these days, is quite illegal and definitely violates Roe. But the Supreme Court is packed with hot garbage, and they're counting on one of these laws making it there and overturning it entirely.
In Iowa, some especially horrifying legislation has been introduced that would create a digital database of those looking for information on abortion online and then contact them and "create a conversation with them" in order to talk them out of having an abortion.
Via HF 515:
Utilize proactive targeted digital marketing using proven search engine marketing techniques to reach pregnant women in realtime who are in crisis and actively seeking an abortion, and employ specific scripting strategies to create a conversation with these pregnant women to encourage them to choose an alternative to an abortion by increasing awareness of services and removing obstacles to care.
Talk about having no right to privacy! Now they want to use internet tracking to find you, and then set telemarketers loose on you? While having to register a gun is too intrusive because "database" or whatever they're moaning about now?
Now, there is absolutely no goddamn way that these people seriously think that those looking to have an abortion have never, in their whole lives, heard of adoption. It's not a thing people don't know about! But there are issues involved in having a baby and giving birth other than simply not wanting a child. And frankly, given the fact that Iowa's maternal death rate doubled from 2015-2018, that is something they should be aware of.
I don't know that it is possible to be so daft as to assume people seeking information about abortion don't know about adoption, so it seems more likely that the intent here is intimidation. Because a lot of people might get a little freaked out were they to get a call from a government worker — or perhaps they'd outsource these people's phone numbers to a nice religious group — asking them to not have an abortion.
All three of these states, actually, have relatively high maternal mortality rates — higher than the national average, in a country with a disturbingly high maternal mortality rate to begin with. Perhaps, if they truly care about "life," they could focus on that for a while instead of hoping that making life hell for abortion providers and patients will make them "choose life."
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse