Wednesday, March 08, 2006

They're Making Fun of Us!

And who could blame them? My friend Ron sent these editorial cartoons lampooning South Dakota's near-total ban on abortion, passed into law this week.

"Somebody Stop Me"

Hot on the heels of signing the most draconian abortion ban in the nation (basically: no abortions, period. At least, no legal ones), my state's governor now backs away from the measure he signed into law. Fascinating. You don't suppose politics could have anything to do with anything, do you??

An interesting quotation in the item below, from my local newspaper, is this:

Asked about the lack of an exception for victims of rape or incest, Rounds said, "I did not write this bill." Another time during the questions and answers, he said "This isn't my bill.''

I would suggest that once a governor signs a measure into law, it then becomes his or her bill--regardless of its original author(s), the governor has now taken ownership of it. If he doesn't support it, why did he sign it? If he does support it, why is he trying to slide away from it now? I suspect it's because this measure goes way beyond what most South Dakotans, and most Americans, support (at the very least, most people have some compassion for women and girls who find themselves pregnant as the result of rape or incest, or women whose health would be endangered by continuing their pregnancy--most people, that is, who are not South Dakota Republican state legislators), and because he's looking not only at re-election but also at an eventual run for U.S. Senate. So now having appeased the extreme right-wing, he's already madly dashing back toward the center.

I did not vote for the Governor Rounds, but I formerly had a great deal more respect for him than I do today.

Anyway, here's the piece:

Rounds explains abortion decision
Governor doesn't embrace ban he signed

ARGUS LEADER (Sioux Falls, SD)
March 8, 2006, 2:55 am

PIERRE - Gov. Mike Rounds on Tuesday carved a bit of space between him and the abortion ban he signed into law, repeatedly saying it's not his bill.

Rounds also said he wouldn't campaign actively for it if a threatened referral drive materializes.

Rounds, a Republican, held his first news conference since signing the bill at the same time Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson issued a statement in which he suggested the bill is out of the mainstream.

There's been political speculation that if Rounds wins re-election as expected this year, he might be pressured by the state GOP to challenge Johnson, a Democrat who won his last race by 528 votes.

"This law is an extreme and radical approach to a very difficult and personal subject, and I do not support it," Johnson's statement said.

Rounds, responding to questions from reporters, reminded them at least twice that it's not his legislation.

He signed the bill Monday.

Sponsors hope it will start a federal court challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that became the foundation for legal abortion. The measure would make it a felony crime for a doctor to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Even in those instances, the doctor would be required to try to save both lives.

Opponents, who say they intend to make a court challenge, also have talked in recent days about circulating petitions and placing the issue on the South Dakota ballot in November. The law wouldn't take effect until after the vote if those petitions were filed.

If that happened, a loud and rowdy campaign could be expected. Rounds wouldn't be among those making the noise, he said.

"I would not actively campaign either way on this particular issue at this stage of the game," the governor said. "When people asked my opinion, I would share with them that my preference would be to take Roe v. Wade apart piece by piece. But other than that, in terms of the bill itself and those individuals who believe this is the right approach to taking apart Roe v. Wade, this is their opportunity to find out, at least in the next few years, whether or not the Supreme Court would entertain this as the right vehicle to address abortion within the United States."

Asked about the lack of an exception for victims of rape or incest, Rounds said, "I did not write this bill." Another time during the questions and answers, he said "This isn't my bill.''

Johnson, Herseth differ from Thune
Johnson's statement said the proposed law "would deny individual women, even under the most extreme circumstances, their current right to prayerfully determine for themselves whether to have an abortion."

He said the law goes beyond what President Bush has said he would accept. He said the national goal should be to make abortion rare "through education, voluntary contraceptive resources, improved adoption procedures and help for low-income new mothers and their children."

Politicians shouldn't substitute their judgment for "the painfully difficult and very personal decisions of women and their families," Johnson said.

Republican Sen. John Thune said in a statement Tuesday that the Legislature took an anti-abortion stand that reflects South Dakota's position as an anti-abortion state.

"While I have consistently supported a ban on abortion with the exception of rape, incest and when the mother's life is in danger, I share the goal of the South Dakota Legislature to promote a culture of life," Thune said.

Democrat Rep. Stephanie Herseth said she doesn't think the bill represents the view of a majority of South Dakotans.

"This legislation, which contains no protection for victims of rape or incest and provides no exceptions for a mother's health, is far outside of the mainstream," Herseth said.

Instead of seeking common ground, she said, "proponents of this extreme bill have chosen a highly political and divisive approach."

Time to add exceptions for rape, incest
Rounds said there is a five- to seven-day window of an exception for rape and incest, since the bill he signed into law would allow contraceptive drugs to be issued until the time that a pregnancy could be determined by testing.

"So if you do have an individual who has been victimized with rape or incest, there is a time period in which this bill does not apply to contraceptive drugs and so forth being utilized," he said.

Rounds' signature on the bill set in motion a series of protests and demonstrations this week.

In a news conference, representatives of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Pro-Choice South Dakota, South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women, Planned Parenthood of South Dakota, and State Rep. Elaine Roberts, D-Sioux Falls, decried the new abortion law and outlined the major thrusts of challenges against it. They include:

# Questioning the establishment of a legal defense fund to receive contributions to pay for court challenges to the new abortion law.

# Consolidating support among women to view the law as a dismissive attack on women's rights.

# Recruiting legislative candidates to run against those who voted for the bill.

Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood's state director, said that while the abortion bill passed, bills before the Legislature to require hospitals to make women aware emergency contraception is available, to make insurance companies cover contraceptive drugs if they cover other prescription drugs and to require school districts to offer sex education all failed in committee.

Looby said legislators who backed the abortion law have "a huge problem...communicating with people in the state who strongly support a rape/incest exception."

Planned Parenthood also is holding a rally against the abortion ban Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. at the federal courthouse.

Roberts called the abortion law "a wake-up call" for her constituents who want the Legislature to focus on jobs, education, health care and property tax relief, and question "why we spend so much time on this" abortion issue. She opposes the legal defense fund.

"Are we for sale?" she asked. "This is another way to hide funds, another way to put money some place where you don't know who is contributing. If this (abortion law) is what the people of South Dakota really want, the people of South Dakota ought to pay for it, and I don't think we do. I don't think we want our tax money to pay for it."

Argus Leader reporter Peter Harriman contributed to this story.