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Iowa Anti-Choicers Admit They Want to Imprison Women for Abortion

12:26 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Iowa Capitol

Some in the Iowa General Assembly want to send women to jail for getting abortions.

A little over a month into 2013, and one thing is absolutely certain: Anti-choice legislators aren’t going to let the damage that their war on women did to their fellow conservative politicians’ electoral prospects slow them down from competing with each other to show who can concoct the most vile schemes to undermine women’s rights. Now Iowa Republicans are flexing their muscles, trying to show that they hate the ladies even more than the forced-transvaginal-ultrasound folks in Michigan, Texas, and Virginia, or the women-can’t-think-on-weekends-and-holidays nuts in South Dakota.

Nine state representatives in Iowa have introduced a bill that would define killing a fertilized egg as “murder”.

707.1 Murder defined.

1. A person who kills another person with malice aforethought either express or implied commits murder.

2. “Person”, when referring to the victim of a murder, means an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.

Murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs. For the purposes of this section, “abortion-inducing drug” means a medicine, drug, or any other substance prescribed or dispensed with the intent of terminating the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman, with knowledge that the drug will with reasonable likelihood cause the termination of the pregnancy. “Abortion-inducing drug” includes the off-label use of drugs known to have abortion-inducing properties, which are prescribed specifically with the intent of causing an abortion, but does not include drugs that may be known to cause an abortion, but which are prescribed for other medical indications.

The point of this bill is, simply put, to throw women in jail for “murder” for deliberately ending pregnancies — and quite possibly for trying to prevent them, as many anti-choicers continue to insist, despite the evidence against them, that the pill and emergency contraception work by “killing” fertilized eggs. (They work by suppressing ovulation and preventing fertilization.) The language of this is quite expansive. They’re not only counting women who reach out to legal providers for abortion as “murderers,” but also women who go online and buy drugs for this purpose. The broadness of this suggests that they may even try to snag women for “murder” for taking common rue, a herbal medication women use to kick start their period (and potentially end an unwanted pregnancy) if they’re late.

This is a dramatic shift in the traditional anti-choice approach to discussing the issue of how to handle women who seek abortion. While I personally have no doubt that many to most anti-choicers fully intend and have always intended to get to a place where women are being jailed for abortion, the official stance of anti-choice legislators and activists is generally to deny believing that nearly a third of American women should go to jail for “murder.” Maintaining the illusion of disinterest in punishing women for abortion with jail is so important that after Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico was caught proposing jail for rape victims who get abortion, she rewrote the bill specifically to avoid the accusation.

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South Dakota’s New Abortion Restrictions Reveal Theocratic Intentions

7:51 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Leave it to the legislature of South Dakota, which tried to ban abortion outright but found the law rejected by a popular vote, to come around in a season of unprecedented attacks on women’s rights and really stand out from the crowd.  The new law requiring a three-day waiting period and a lecture from the busybodies at crisis pregnancy centers before you get an abortion now almost surely qualifies as the most restrictive abortion law in the country, especially since the single provider in South Dakota has to fly doctors in and may not be able to handle the three day waiting period requirement.  But what’s really amazing is how overtly theocratic the law is.  Anti-choicers are usually cognizant of the danger of being perceived as shoving their religious dogma on others through the law, because it’s expressly forbidden in the Constitution, even though that’s exactly what they’re doing.  But now the pretense of secularism is barely even shrugged at, because there is no way that sending women to religious institutions to get religiously motivated lectures about religious dogma isn’t a strike against religious freedom. 

I expressed this concern at Alternet, and Michelle Goldberg made the same observation in The Daily Beast, and joked to me on Twitter that the phrase “secular crisis pregnancy center” made as much sense as saying “secular mass and secular madrassas.”  Michelle’s research indicates that proponents of this law are aware that this could be a problem, because they assure her the law requires women to consent before having to hear a Jesus lecture.  But remember that the women are already there under duress, and may not think they have many rights.  Also, the folks doing the reassuring, Leslee and Allen Unruh, are hardly the most reliable people.  Leslee has faced trouble with the law for illegal bribery to give babies up for adoption, and she also lied to the New York Times, telling them CPC counseling is provided by medical professionals, when in fact CPCs are unregulated and usually run by volunteers. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust folks like that to keep the Jesus talk to a minimum when the door is shut and they have an already non-consenting woman in their snare. … Read more

Just Who Is Paying to Defend Anti-Choice Laws in South Dakota?

7:49 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

When the South Dakota legislature passed H.B. 1217, creating a mandatory 72-hour waiting period for an abortion and forcing women to undergo counseling at non-medical, faith-based crisis pregnancy centers, Governor Dennis Daugaard took his time before signing the bill into law.  Why the wait?  According to news reports, he wanted time to figure out how to cover the legal expenses in the inevitable law suits forcing the state to defend what most experts on both sides saw as an unconstitutional encroachment on a woman’s right to choose, as well as a possible violation of separation of church and state.

According to the governor, a “private donor” then pledged to provide funding to cover the costs of the legislation.

Signing the bill in private, Gov. Daugaard released a statement saying:

”I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.” 

The people not making good choices would be the legislators that passed the bill, and the governor who signed it into law under the promise that private funds would be available to defend the restrictions in court.

Covering the cost of the suit is of vital importance for the state.  South Dakota has defended and lost numerous court cases in attempting to restrict abortion rights, paying out over half a million dollars in court costs to Planned Parenthood over the last 15 years because in these cases the state had to reimburse the organization for attorneys fees.

But there is a great deal of enthusiasm in the legislature around the bill, and its key sponsor, Rep. Roger Hunt has offered to solicit donations for a defense fund in order to ensure the governor signed it.  Also believed to be fundraising for its defense is Leslee Unruh, founder of Alpha Center, a spirited lobbyist for H.B. 1217 and a pregnancy help center owner whose group is already providing trainings in anticipation of the new mandate, scheduled to go into effect July 1st.

The primary worry for many in the legislature is that this isn’t the first time sponsors have offered to raise money for legal defense for anti-abortion bills, and pledges aren’t the same as actual dollars. … Read more

South Dakota: What the Hell Are They Thinking?

7:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Charlotte Taft for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Now that South Dakota has actually passed legislation requiring every woman seeking an abortion to be ‘counseled’ by a Fake Clinic, it’s obvious that, in all fairness, every pregnant woman who is considering having a baby has to be counseled at an abortion clinic. Of course that wouldn’t make any sense because, unlike the Fake Clinics, abortion clinics don’t have an agenda for the patient except that she make the best decision for herself!

What would happen if a woman who wanted a baby were counseled at an abortion clinic? The counselor or advocate would ask a few questions and then probably say something like “It sounds as though you know what you want. Congratulations. Can I help you find any community resources to help?”

What will happen when a woman who wants an abortion is counseled at a Fake Clinic? The monstrous deception that occurs in the Fake Clinics has been exposed in films such as the HBO Special 12th and Delaware. Because the Fakes have a well-hidden agenda, everything they do is designed to frighten and shame a woman who knows it is not the right time for her to have a baby. This fraudulence is clearly set out in the instructions given by the diabolical Robert Pearson, who came up with this brilliant and evil plan way back in 1967 when abortion was first legal in Hawaii. Pearson himself acknowledged and defended the deception in a 1994 speech: “obviously, we’re fighting Satan… A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby. Therefore, when she calls and says, ‘Do you do abortions?’ we do not tell her, No, we don’t do abortions.” The volunteers in his centers and others like them don’t mind tricking women because they think they are following some ‘higher law’.  They don’t mind lying and misrepresenting things like the specious breast cancer-abortion link, the dangers of abortion, and most cruel of all, the help available to a woman who realizes that she honestly cannot support a child financially. … Read more

South Dakota Right To Life Endorses…For Secretary of State?

7:15 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

There’s a saying that all politics is local. But it seems as if this year, the saying could be modified to “all local politics is about abortion.”  Nowhere is this clearer than in South Dakota, where the question of reproductive rights stances has trickled all the way down to the Secretary of State race.

Of course, South Dakota already has a long history of making political hay out of reproductive health.  The 2006 and 2008 attempts to eliminate access to abortion in the state have proven that to at least one segment of the citizenry in the state, there no issue more important than eliminating a woman’s right to choose. 

It’s with this mentality that South Dakota Right to Life (SDRL) seems to have made the unprecedented move of endorsing and advocating for a Secretary of State candidate this cycle, backing Republican Jason Gant. 

According to the SDRL 2010 voter guide, Gant, a state legislator, has an extensive history of anti-choice legislation, including:

  • Opposed legislation seeking to allow human embryonic stem cell research in SD.
  • Co-sponsored and supported legislation requiring abortion facilities to offer sonograms to women seeking abortions.
  • Consistently voted for pro-life measures throughout his six years in SD Senate, including the SD Right to Life-drafted Trigger Ban* in 2005.

 “I believe whole-heartedly in the sanctity of human life, especially the unborn, the elderly, the chronically ill, and the terminally ill.  Respecting life is an endeavor that must never be diminished.  I am pro-life and I vote pro-life.”

Meanwhile, Gant’s opponent, Ben Nesselhuf, has a “consistently” anti-prolife record that even includes being the “prime sponsor of legislation seeking to allow deadly human embryonic stem cell research” in the state.  Nesselhuf’s unforgivable stance on abortion, according to SDRL?  He believes “Abortion is a decision that should be left up to a woman, her doctor, her partner, and her god.” (SDRL uses the lowercase “g.”)

Gant should probably consider himself lucky to have gotten so much favorable support from the group, considering they actually had a brief moment of butting heads in 2007, when Gant agreed that the state ban on abortion was good enough with narrow rape and mother’s health exceptions and SDRL said not a chance.  A now-archived article from the Los Angeles Times reported:

This spring, South Dakota’s Legislature considered new restrictions on abortion after voters rejected a ban that contained no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

Republican state Sen. Jason Gant argued for a ban with narrow exceptions, to appease voters who had been queasy about the earlier approach. "When you can stop 90% of abortions, that’s pretty good. We can try again at a later date to get the other 10%," Gant said.

But the state’s Right to Life group opposed the exceptions, arguing that "babies conceived of rape and incest deserve to live too," said Lena Jones, the organization’s office manager.

The deadlock killed the ban before it came to a vote in the state Senate.

And after the ban was defeated at the polls, Gant was quoted in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader as saying “that the state voiced [an] opinion and ‘we need to just go with that.’"  Not exactly the sort of pro-life rhetoric that would get SDRL up on its feet for an endorsement.

But of course, the real question is, why does anyone even care about the abortion stance of the Secretary of State in the first place?  After all, the Secretary of State doesn’t introduce bills or vote on legislation that could further an anti-choice agenda.  Why would SDRL be so interested in going out on a limb to take a race they never endorse for, and then pick a candidate they haven’t seen totally eye to eye on in the past, and paint him as the champion of ending abortions in the state?

Nesselhuf is just as puzzled by the endorsement, but believes it may be a sign that he has the best chance to win his race of any of the pro-choice candidates in the state.  Via email, Nesselhuf stated:

The SDRL takes a very hard and aggressive stance against anyone who doesn’t fall in line.  That is part of why they have success in the legislature but not with the majority of the public.

I also think that this is a testament to our chances of success in this election.  We have been working for almost a year and very aggressively getting our message out.  Many South Dakota political observers believe we stand the best chance of victory of any statewide race.  The far right is pulling out all the stops to try and derail this campaign.

Is the group simply looking for an endorsement it can put in its "win" column, or looking to settle a score with a politician that has spent ten years in the legislature, all of them backing policies that the group would find morally repugnant? 

Or is it because Gant is himself making reproductive issues part of the race?  Although he has spoken little of it on the trail, his campaign website makes it very clear that he not only is staunchly anti-choice, but that he sees it as as much of a "South Dakota Issue" as healthcare, agriculture and education.

One key platform of his election campaign, however, is "election reform," which in his case translates into making sure less South Dakota residents have voting access.  Gant is claiming that voter fraud is rampant, and is campaigning against same day registration and eliminating photo id requirements at the polls, something he appears to believe is a plot concocted by the "ACLU and George Soros."  Voting restrictions are laws that have traditionally benefited Republicans at the polls, and to SDRL could signify getting more anti-choice lawmakers into office.

Regardless of the real motivation behind this unusual endorsement, South Dakota Right to Life has thrown themselves even further into the ring as potential political kingmakers in the state.  We will learn in November if this new move pays off.