Tuesday, February 28, 2006

South Dakota legislators are downright stupid...

From the RapidCityJournal.com :

Just when you thought legislators couldn't get any more ignorant....

Abortion bill cause for head scratching
By Lynn Talor Rick, Journal Staff Writer

If you’re a woman in South Dakota or if you have a daughter, wife, sister or mother in South Dakota, you might want to turn an eye to Pierre.Because whether you consider yourself pro-choice, anti-abortion or somewhere in-between, things are not right in the state’s Capital.The bills being passed and the bills being rejected show a startling disregard for the health, safety and intelligence of South Dakota women.

It all starts with the abortion bill.

In a replay of the 2004 session, the South Dakota Legislature has taken it upon itself to challenge federal law on the legality of abortion. The bill allows for no exceptions for rape or health of the mother.

Although I respect people’s passionate feelings on both sides of this issue, it’s growing more difficult for me to muster up any respect for the ever-increasing stridency coming from the anti-abortion camp.That’s because the same Legislature that is barreling ahead to make abortion a criminal act is also voting to deny basic health care for rape victims.

Its members have also decided that rapists should be allowed parental rights to the children conceived during the crime.Take a second to scratch your head if you need to.

This is actually the second year in a row that our legislators have voted to deny rape victims information about emergency contraception. The bill, SB175, failed by a 26-9 vote this time around.The bill would have required hospitals to inform rape victims that there is a medication that will prevent them from becoming pregnant by their assailant. If, after learning about emergency contraception, the rape victim wanted it, the bill required the hospital to administer it or provide a prescription for it.

I wrote about this during the last session, believing that after some time to think, legislators would surely come to their senses. Apparently, they did not.You might ask how anyone could justify this. How can someone suggest that a rape victim be victimized again by withholding basic health care from them?

The problem is that emergency contraception has been wrongly linked to abortion.The key word here is “wrongly.” The pill has nothing to do with the so-called abortion pill. An implanted fertilized egg would be unaffected by emergency contraceptive drugs. The drug prevents ovulation, fertilization and implantation. Emergency contraceptives are not abortion pills. Don’t let people tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the anti-abortion movement has succeeded in doing just that. Legislators and people have been led to believe that administering the drug will end pregnancies. And as we all know, even hinting that the drug has abortive qualities is all it takes.

This year’s rape-victim bill even carried a provision that allowed religious hospitals the right to deny administering the drugs. Even that was not enough. This means that if you are raped in this state, and your emergency room doctor doesn’t know much about emergency contraception or chooses not to inform you about it, you may not be given either the information or the drugs. For young, uneducated women, already traumatized by rape, the chances that they will have the knowledge or confidence to request such a thing is slim.

That’s OK with Sen. Tom Hansen of Huron, however, because he’s got more important things to worry about than the victims of rape. He’s too busy worrying about a baby that doesn’t exist to actually read the medical literature and find out how the drug works.“There’s another voice that needs to be heard, and that is of the baby,” he was quoted in the Journal.

Although this particular thing leaves a person wondering what they’re drinking in Pierre and Huron, the next decision suggests it’s something hallucinogenic.

During this session, the Legislature decided that convicted rapists should not be denied parental protection when it comes to children conceived during a rape.HB1132, which was killed 11 to 1, would have required judges to terminate parental rights of convicted rapists to the children conceived during the crime.

Rep. Alan Hanks of Rapid City said he presented the bill after being told about women harassed by their rapists and forced to face the rapist during visitation situations. It’s interesting that the same anti-abortion legislators who argue that abortion hurts women see no problem with rape victims being forced to share custody of their children with their rapists.These same legislators who care so much about babies don’t see anything wrong with those same babies being handed over to convicted rapists for visitation. Again, take a moment to scratch your head. Or yell.

Or, better yet, make a phone call to your representative. South Dakota women are a diverse lot. We are ranchers, businesswomen, reporters, mothers, and I think, pretty intelligent women. Some of us believe that abortion must be made illegal, without exception. Some of us believe that, ugly or not, abortion needs to remain an option until better options exist. Some of us believe that abortion must remain a choice for women, no matter what the situation. It’s hard to accept the opinions of others when our own are so strong, but I think most of us can do that.

What we shouldn’t do is allow some people within the anti-abortion movement to use women’s health and women’s rights issues as fodder for their campaign. We can’t allow them to slip the white-hot abortion issue into common-sense bills that would otherwise be no-brainers. They are doing this, and we are suffering for it.

The result is what’s currently happening in Pierre. Women’s bodies are being debated and voted on with little common sense and even less regard for our health, emotional and physical. With the current mindset in place, how long do you think it will be before legislation restricting birth control surfaces? If legislators are allowed to throw around conception definitions based on religion rather than science, the birth control pill is most definitely on the chopping block.

In late 2004, Rob Regier of the South Dakota Family Policy Council told me that he would support regulation and control over access to birth control. South Dakota Eagle Forum lobbyist Kitty Werthmann told me at the same time that the abortion bill being debated that year didn’t go far enough because it didn’t restrict birth control.

Are we looking at our future? Is it a future we want? Maybe, along the way, South Dakota women have been swept up in the emotional issue of abortion and forgotten to demand fairness when it comes to other issues of health and rights. Maybe today is the day we get back in the game. Take a second to let your legislator know that you’re here and you’re watching. And don’t forget to remind them that you love to vote.

Go to http://legis.state.sd.us/index.aspx for a list of your legislators and their phone numbers.

Contact Lynn Taylor Rick at 394-8414 or lynn.taylorrick@rapidcityjournal.com


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