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Thursday, February 17, 2011

South Dakote legalizes murder in the war against a woman's right to choose

Roe v Wade is the law of the land and that is unlikely to change but the GOP has been chipping away at narrowing it's scope. Within a few years the Hyde Amendment stopped federal funding of abortions through programs such as Medicaid, making it impossible or expensive for low income women who are often least able to take care of their new born infants. The original amendment banned abortions for rape, incest and even if the woman's life was in danger. After an outcry from women's groups that part was removed.

Not much changed after that until the fundamentalist Christian right replaced the pragmatic fiscal oriented right. Now it's open season as abortion rights have been under attack on both the local, state and federal level.

South Dakota has been ground zero in the fight to restrict abortions. In 1994 the state banned abortion providers within its borders except for those who can afford it done privately.

Last year Utah passed an insane law that a pregnant woman could be charged with manslaughter if 'reckless' behavior resulted in a miscarriage. The law originally used the term 'negligent' but a marginal level of sanity prevailed and 'negligent' was replaced with 'reckless'. 'Reckless' wasn't defined in the law, leaving prosecutors with a wide latitude to define the term. A traffic accident where a pregnant woman is at fault and a miscarriage results could lead to a manslaughter charge.

The GOP rode to election success in the 2010 midterm elections promising job creation and an economic policies as their priority. Instead they have ignored that pressing problem and have instead devoted far more energy to restricting abortion rights. Their first attempt was to narrow the definition of rape and incest to an accompanying act of 'violence'. After an outcry they backed off on that strategy.

Here is a sampling of some of the proposals at both the state and federal level:

. HEARTBEATS: GOP state lawmakers in Arizona and Ohio unveiled so-called “Heartbeat Bills” to “prohibit women from ending pregnancies at the first detectable fetal heartbeat.” The heartbeat can be heard “within 18 to 24 days of conception” and “in almost all cases by six weeks” — a period in which “many women don’t even know they’re pregnant.” While Ohio and Arizona have such bills in writing, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia are watching their progress “closely.”

2. ULTRASOUNDS: By dubbing it an “emergency item,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) “fast-tracked” an anti-abortion bill mandating that “pregnant women be shown an ultrasound of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion.” Physicians would have to show the fetus’ dimensions, limbs or internal organs, and — if audible — the fetal heartbeat. The Kentucky Senate passed a similar measure requiring women receive an ultrasound and “if she chooses to avert her eyes, the doctor still would have to describe to her the image.” A Montana House Republican also proposed a bill that “would have made it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion without first providing an ultrasound.” The bill narrowly failed by a 53-47 votes. Last week, the Wyoming House passed a less-stringent bill that “would require doctors to inform women seeking an abortion that they could view an ultrasound image of their fetus before the procedure.”

3. RACE/SEX DISCRIMINATION: An Arizona GOP Rep. Steve Montenegro actually introduced bills to criminalize abortions if they’re sought because of race or sex. The bill would charge doctors with a Class 3 felony if they “knowingly perform abortions for these reasons.” While there is absolutely no evidence to prove that Arizonans seek abortions for these reasons, Montenegro apparently borrowed this idea from U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Discrimination Act which would have “criminalized abortion because of the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of the parent.” Illinois and Pennsylvania already have laws prohibiting sex-selection abortions and other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, and “tried to enact legislation that would prevent sex- or race-selection abortions.” Oklahoma succeeded in 2009, but a state court struck down the measure “on procedural technicalities.”

4. THE WOMEN-LAST STANDARD: On the federal level, House Republicans took the first two months of the new year to marginalize the rights of women. First, they tried to exclude certain victims — including women who are drugged, women who do not physically fight off the offender, and some minors — from abortion coverage by redefining rape. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) then introduced the “Protect Life Act,” a bill that would “give doctors the green light to let pregnant women die if they have a life-threatening condition and need and emergency abortion.”

South Dakota's lead in the war against a woman's right to choose was under assault. A law banning all abortions is in the works in Iowa as a direct challenge to Roe v Wade. The state rep. Phil Jensen of South Dakota came to the rescue. He sponsored an amendment to a 'justifiable homicide' bill to include language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

Think about that. A doctor who performs a legal abortion can legally be killed for providing an abortion. The bill passed 9-3 in committee and is scheduled for a vote in the state legislature. Since 1993, eight doctors have been assassinated at the hands of anti-abortion extremists, and another 17 have been the victims of murder attempts. If this law passes the perpetrators of these crimes couldn't be charged if they do this in South Dakota. Mother Jones has the full story.

Meanwhile, the GOP led House of Representatives hasn't done a damn thing to help the economy. They have proposed draconian cuts to programs that give low income women and children to nutrition, to health services and to education, actions that not only threaten the futures of these at risk people but could also lead the loss of an estimated one million jobs. At the same time the sacred cows of defense and tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy, all well represented by lobbyists and campaign donations remain unscathed.

And they do this all in the name of their so-called Christian beliefs.

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