Written By: Anton Sawyer
South Dakota Showing The Horrific Realities Of What America Will Look Like Without Roe v. Wade
South Dakota has decided that the best way to control people, both morally and medically, has been through the use of destroying Roe v. Wade and crippling abortion rights in the state. By changing the abortion laws to where the restrictions in Texas seem like a drop in the bucket, all done while soaking in the aroma of their self-righteousness, their utilization of the cliché “killing two birds with one stone” has been done to great effect. These two elements are what the article today is going to examine; how South Dakota will give us a glimpse as to what America will look like if Roe v. Wade were overturned, and just how morally bankrupt this pursuit is.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
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The Legal/Medical Realities
Between the summer of 2021 through the spring of 2022, South Dakota has been on a rampage beefing up current anti-abortion measures, along with finding creative legal loopholes to help enact new measurements which tighten the states’ grip just that much more when it comes to the pro-life movement. When looking at some of the specifics of the restrictions, it’s easy to see how the conservative movement would be more than happy to adopt them as a part of their national platform.
For example, South Dakota law requires patients seeking an abortion to undergo an initial in-person consultation and then wait for 72 hours before they can return for the procedure—this doesn’t include weekends or holidays in that time period. In fact, South Dakota is the ONLY state in the nation that doesn’t recognize these days in their waiting period. Due to the restrictions in the law, the state’s only recognized abortion clinic—a Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls—has five physicians. Each works on a rotating schedule―each doctor takes one week a month, flying in twice that week to accommodate the state’s 72-hour waiting period for patients. Due to how vociferously the state monitors any abortion activity, each physician’s travel is scheduled down to the minute. If these exact time frames are off at all, then abortion becomes illegal.
Not to be outdone by this time-frame debacle, during the summer of 2021, Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order blocking the Food and Drug Administration's decision in April to temporarily lift in-person restrictions on access to abortion medications. Her order made it illegal to deliver abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) via courier, telemedicine, or mail service and prohibits abortion-inducing drugs from being dispensed or provided in schools or on state grounds. The FDA finally made that decision permanent in December, butting Noem’s reach. Because of this, her new medical abortion bill seeks to "prohibit medical abortion by telemedicine, to provide a penalty thereof, to increase the penalty for the unlicensed practice of medicine when performing a medical abortion."
She followed this by introducing a slew of bills at the end of January 2022, adopting similar legislation to Texas’ Heartbeat Act preventing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected at six weeks of pregnancy. When it comes to the statutory damages, the “intent to engage” verbiage, and almost every other criminal penalty for violating the law, it has been deemed a “copycat” to that of the one enjoyed by the Lone Star State.
Since the overall number of abortions has decreased once these measures took hold, it truly is a time of rejoicing for pro-lifers in South Dakota. That is until you dig a little deeper and see that though the numbers of abortions statewide have decreased, it’s come at a price.
A temporary halt to abortions in 2020 at the only clinic in South Dakota where the procedures take place led to a big drop in abortions performed that year, but it did not prevent women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies from doing so elsewhere. During the seven-month pause in procedures at the Planned Parenthood clinic, hundreds of South Dakota women traveled out of state to get an abortion and many requested financial help to pay for and get access to the procedure. Because South Dakota has refused government assistance via Medicare and Medicaid in supplementing those seeking to get an abortion, including as preventative care, it’s not uncommon for lower-income women to cross state lines in order to utilize this assistance to which they are entitled. According to a data analysis by News Watch, abortions performed in South Dakota fell from about 400 in 2019 to 125 in 2020. But during the same year, more than 450 South Dakota women traveled to a different state to obtain an abortion, far more than in a typical year, according to statistics from health departments in neighboring states.
Though South Dakota isn’t known for its accurate representation when being an example on a global scale, these numbers seem to be the same wherever you go.
A 2021 WHO report made their case clear: when people with unintended pregnancies face barriers to attaining safe, timely, affordable, geographically reachable, respectful, and non-discriminatory abortion, they often resort to unsafe abortion. In this report, the term “unsafe” is defined as an abortion performed by untrained persons using dangerous and invasive methods. Global estimates from 2010–2014 demonstrate that 45% of all induced abortions are unsafe. When looking at this from a world perspective, there are two other numbers that stick out immediately in the report. Developing countries bear the burden of 97% of all unsafe abortions, and as a side-effect of these unsafe procedures, each year 4.7–13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortions. If these conservatives claim that America is a beacon of light on the top of a hill, then why would we try to model any part of our great nation after the medical advancements of a third-world country?
Of course, one of the most utilized traits by the GOP has always been “out of sight, out of mind,” and these numbers from both South Dakota along the rest of Earth perfectly exemplify this disconnect. Because the overall number of abortions decreased in South Dakota, pro-life advocates saw this as a huge success. That these laws have indeed saved the lives of the innocents. South Dakota Right to Life Director Dale Bartscher said the pause on the procedures in the state in 2020 “saved more lives,” was “wonderful” for the efforts to eliminate abortion in the state and is one of a number of factors contributing to the anti-abortion movement “winning this war.” Finishing with, “It is our goal to see that abortion is illegal and unthinkable.”
I want to focus on that last word there, “unthinkable.”
The Moral Realities
Unthinkable, that word comes from a place of morality. In some countries, what would be perceived as morally acceptable within the borders of that community would be perceived with utter shock and disdain to outsiders. To those with a specific religious bent, then yes, abortion is unthinkable. However, to assume that your perception is the only correct one, and therefore it is your obligation to make it the moral standard for every other human that you can, is where all of the pushback comes from. To assume that there is only one moral standard is intellectually obtuse at best.
But … I’ll play along.
An article written by Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., published by Psychology Today in 2019, examined the morality behind the pro-life viewpoint from the specific argument of “Personhood.” He used the definition of “personhood” as referring to the moral status of an entity. If an entity is a person, in this particular sense, it has full moral status. A person, then, has rights, and we have obligations to that person. This includes the right to life. He found that the biggest component that needs focusing on is the differences between latent capacities and actualized capacities. “Right now, I have the actualized capacity to communicate in English about the ethics of abortion. I'm demonstrating that capacity right now. I do not, however, have the actualized capacity to communicate in Spanish on this issue. I do, however, have the latent capacity to do so. If I studied Spanish, practiced it with others, or even lived in a Spanish-speaking nation for a while, I would likely be able to do so. The latent capacity I have now to communicate in Spanish would become actualized.”
And this is the cornerstone to many of the arguments brought about by the pro-life faction of the US; the potential. The potential of what that saved life may be able to bring about and that because of this potential, it deserves the right of full personhood.
We can argue back and forth on the philosophies of personhood all day. In fact, here’s my philosophical take on it all. Personhood is only a convenient excuse. I believe that the reason why so many of these Christian organizations want to use the idea of personhood as their moral argument has nothing to do with saving a life, but rather by controlling another.
If you have been raised in a devoutly Christian household, your life begins with restrictions. What you can say, watch, do, etc. It’s a constant barrage of limitations that you are forced to not only accept as reality, but you are also then forced to like because of the celestial potential that awaits you in the great beyond. It’s setting your neurons up to associate limitations and the naturally occurring frustrations that we have as humans which come from them with an outward appearance of acceptance or even joy. Because of this constant battle that you’re never going to win, this angst transfers to those with whom you feel you have a moral superiority towards which manifests itself through enacting laws taking control away from the lives of those who disagree with you.
It’s sad and pathetic.
But that’s all I’m doing, arguing philosophies. With philosophy, there is no one specific wrong or right answer. It’s about the sharing of ideas with the specific intent of reaching a common goal, but never saying that there is only one ultimate correct answer. That’s what science is for. Yet, even if you entertain these conservative philosophies, the data makes it impossible to not see that their outcome is going to lead us to regress as a nation both medically and ethically.
I use the term ethically because the US does have a defined set of ethics via the US Constitution, NOT a defined set of religious ideologies. I know there are millions of Americans who didn’t get the memo that the First Amendment clause allowing for the freedom of religion also means FROM religion, but that doesn’t mean this intention doesn’t exist. When you see what the future potentially looks like for those who are pro-choice in the state of South Dakota, it’s nothing short of grim. It’s going to lead to a lot of unsafe medical practices and send us on a downward trajectory from where we’ve progressed as a nation by using developing countries as the standard. But hey, from what I’ve heard from those on the opposing side, if you pray and believe REALLY hard, then you will be provided for by an omnipotent deity. And if you don’t receive those blessings, it’s your fault for not believing or praying the right way.
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