3.07.2006

the beginning of the end

And so it begins.

Yesterday the Governor of South Dakota signed into law a ban on all abortions, except when medically necessary to save a woman's life. Planned Parenthood of South Dakota - the state's only abortion provider, staffed with doctors from Minnesota - plans to challenge the law.

For now, the current abortion laws of South Dakota will stand. Because, of course, this law has little to do with South Dakota. This constitutionality of this law will be resolved in the United States Supreme Court, most likely with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

As you know, I believe strongly that Roe is already meaningless for vast numbers of American women who have no access to affordable, timely, local family planning services, of which abortion can be an important part. But Roe itself is not meaningless. It is the foundation of full citizenship for half the adult US population.

The wonder of it, for me, is that so many liberal Americans are still talking about "if" Roe will be overturned. Baby, that train has left the station. U.S. reproductive rights groups all have maps on their walls giving a glimpse of the future: the slave states, the free states, the barely-legal states.

The battle will be to keep as many states free as possible - and to prevent laws restricting a woman's right to travel to obtain an abortion, or criminalizing people who help them.

Can you imagine a class of adult American citizens forbidden to cross a state border? Can you imagine Greyhound being required to report pregnant riders? Pregnant women forced to show their reason for travel? Can you imagine committing a criminal offense by "harboring" a pregnant woman in your home?

I can imagine all these things, and more. Having lived on the front lines of this struggle, the horrors of battle are very vivid to me.

The new South Dakota law begins the culmination of a process that was set in motion in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected. Through Webster (1989), through Casey (1992), Roe has hung on, each time getting smaller, and weaker, becoming more symbol than reality.

Now, the end has begun.

* * * *

When I left New York, I left the Haven Coalition, an abortion-access group I used to help run. Although Haven was formed as a kind of underground railroad, the current coordinators are taking it away from the grassroots and into official non-profit status. (This was a strategy I opposed when I was involved.)

I wonder how long it will be before Haven's work is illegal. I wonder if pregnant women will be sleeping on my couch again, north of the border.

* * * *

If you're curious about why I maintain Roe is practically meaningless for so many women, you can go here to see state-by-state maps of current abortion laws.

28 comments:

Alex said...

A few years ago, I would have argued with you that a return to days of back alley abortions would never happen - but sadly it looks like that could happen. It's not just reproductive rights that are threatened - all our basic human rights are, and we're all at fault for that. All too often we complain about how fundamentalists and other socially conservative groups have control over social policy in Canada and America - and then very few of us try and make a difference. First it is reproductive rights, but what is next - how far are we away from giving total control over our lives to the will of conservatives and fundamentalists?

Ferdzy said...

God, that's grim.

We have our own problems here. In Kitchener-Waterloo region,the fascimentalists managed to get Planned Parenthood cut off from government funding. The last I heard, they were warning that they might have to close down. Yikes! WTF.

James said...

This constitutionality of this law will be resolved in the United States Supreme Court, most likely with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

I don't think that's necessarily the most likely outcome yet. There are still five justices on the Supreme Court who have upheld Roe in the past.

Which is not to say that there's anything good about what's happened in South Dakota. IIRC, Mississippi is looking at similar legislation, and Missouri is looking at a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. If these go through, we can basically assume that the US Constitution has no meaning.

M@ said...

Ferdzy -- good news on the Planned Parenthood front in K-W. A week or two ago they were only $10,000 short of their goal of $100,000 for the year. And a lot of the commentary I heard from the public at large (radio and letters to the editor, mainly) was in support of Planned Parenthood. I think they'll make it at least till next year. I'm going to have to set up an annual donation, myself.

As for the South Dakota stuff, I can't even wrap my mind around that. It's truly unbelievable.

James said...

As for the South Dakota stuff, I can't even wrap my mind around that. It's truly unbelievable.

Unfortunately, after reading about how bad things were before this, I have no problem at all believing it.

It's quite frightening how much more important the rights and wellbeing of legal constructs like corporations are than those of flesh-and-blood people in the US.

L-girl said...

I don't think that's necessarily the most likely outcome yet. There are still five justices on the Supreme Court who have upheld Roe in the past.

How do you figure?

Kyahgirl said...

Hi L-girl. sorry I haven't been around to visit for awhile. Moved again (last time). :-)

This news is incredibly disturbing. I find it hard to believe how far women's rights/human rights are backsliding under the current politcal regime.

I admire you for having been involved in the past. That takes guts.

Granny said...

Justice Stevens may not be around too much longer. I'm sure they're counting on that.

California may continue to hold firm and I have a couch.

Granny said...

Have you heard about the guy who's running against Rick Perry for governor of Texas?

Worried American posted about it today.

L-girl said...

All too often we complain about how fundamentalists and other socially conservative groups have control over social policy in Canada and America - and then very few of us try and make a difference.

I spent my whole life trying to make a difference. I wasn't alone, far from it.

Millions are still trying to hold back the tide. It's not working.

L-girl said...

Which is not to say that there's anything good about what's happened in South Dakota. IIRC, Mississippi is looking at similar legislation,

From the article linked in the post:

"State proposals to ban abortion are before legislatures in Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee."

L-girl said...

Hey Kyahgirl, nice to see you here. Thanks for the pat on the back. That work was what kept me sane.

What's your new URL? The link you left isn't working.

L-girl said...

Justice Stevens may not be around too much longer. I'm sure they're counting on that.

Some people think Kennedy is now the swing vote. I don't. It's said that he and Souter would have already overturned Roe, but were influenced by O'Connor - and changed their minds at the last minute.

James said...

I don't think that's necessarily the most likely outcome yet. There are still five justices on the Supreme Court who have upheld Roe in the past.

How do you figure?


I was reading an article on the matter earlier today, pointing out that such blatant moves by state goverments could do a lot to galvanize the pro-choice movement (as has happened before). It mentioned that five of the current justices have upheld Roe consistently in the past.

Any major news organizations pointed out how this is all happening all of a sudden after Alito was appointed, for all the Bush boys' protestations that Alito had nothing to do with Roe?

L-girl said...

I was reading an article on the matter earlier today, pointing out that such blatant moves by state goverments could do a lot to galvanize the pro-choice movement (as has happened before).

It's true. It's pretty well galvanized already. The pro-choice March on Washington in 2003 was the largest gathering in US history. The majority of Americans don't want to see Roe overturned.

It mentioned that five of the current justices have upheld Roe consistently in the past.

Hmm. That's a little dicey in my book. I don't see any way around it. But I would love to be wrong.

Any major news organizations pointed out how this is all happening all of a sudden after Alito was appointed, for all the Bush boys' protestations that Alito had nothing to do with Roe?

I wonder. To be honest, I didn't even know the junta was claiming that.

Kyahgirl said...

Hey, sorry about that.
I am mistress of my own domain now :-)

www.kyahgirl.com

On the abortion topic...what constructive steps can concerned Canadians take?

Andrea said...

This makes me very worried about what could and may happen up in Canada. I really pray that we are strong enough to stand up for our rights first and formost.
With the government in place now my eyebrow keeps twitching.

L-girl said...

I am mistress of my own domain now :-)

Hee hee. Congratulations. :)

On the abortion topic...what constructive steps can concerned Canadians take?

What an excellent question. I'm going to look into it and post about it. Thanks for the idea. (It will take a while, work schedule being what it is, but I'll do it.)

This makes me very worried about what could and may happen up in Canada. I really pray that we are strong enough to stand up for our rights first and formost.

If I'm reading things right, I think "very worried" might be too strong. But we should always be concerned and never take our rights for granted - eternal vigilance and all that.

With the government in place now my eyebrow keeps twitching.

I know what you mean.

Lone Primate said...

You might want to pick up the Globe and Mail today -- there's a brief but cogent letter-to-the-editor that takes South Dakota, the state about to take such strong and unconstitutional action "in defense of society's weakest members", to task for the hypocrisy that statement betrays when that state's expenditures on children in other avenues, relative to other states, is laid bare -- which it is in the letter.

Lone Primate said...

Relatedly, I also see that Missouri is proposing to make Christianity its official religion... Sorry to the link to my own blog by the news site I found the story on (a CBS affiliate in Missouri) went registerial the next time I tried it.

Expat Traveler said...

I just think it's plain sad, going backwards....

L-girl said...

You might want to pick up the Globe and Mail today

It comes to my doorstep daily. :)

I did see that letter, it was excellent.

L-girl said...

Relatedly, I also see that Missouri is proposing to make Christianity its official religion... Sorry to the link to my own blog by the news site I found the story on (a CBS affiliate in Missouri) went registerial the next time I tried it.

James mentioned that too. Man that is scary.

And it's always ok to link to news at your own site. Why the hell not. :)

James said...

I wonder. To be honest, I didn't even know the junta was claiming that.

It was a blatantly transparent attempt to downplay Alito's conservatism. Sort of an "Oh, no, Alito thinks Roe is estabilshed law. It's all settled. *nudge*nudge*wink*wink*".

On the abortion topic...what constructive steps can concerned Canadians take?

Time to dust off the Underground Railroad?

Kyahgirl said...

James, it might come to that in our lifetimes!

SouthernAlbertaPeter said...

Sorry folks but i have been awawy from this site for quite some time but just came back and found this post! Wow, I had no idea this was such a big issue down in the states still.

I just have one question though about the comments LGirl made about crossing state borders and what not to get treatment.

Doesn't the US Constitution have a clause preventing any person or body from restricting ones ability to cross state lines?

L-girl said...

Time to dust off the Underground Railroad?

That's what I've been thinking. I helped run one into NYC. I see no reason I can't be part of one here.

Wow, I had no idea this was such a big issue down in the states still.

Hi Peter! Yes, it's bigger than ever.

Doesn't the US Constitution have a clause preventing any person or body from restricting ones ability to cross state lines?

It does, and it would be open to interpretation. There's also the "full and faith and credit" clauses, that say states have to honour other states' laws in some circumstances. (Same-sex marriage laws could come into play here, too.)

When Roe is overturned, this will be a related battle.

James said...

That's what I've been thinking. I helped run one into NYC. I see no reason I can't be part of one here.

I'm sure we still have bits of ours lying around... After harbouring Loyalists in the 18th century, slaves in the 19th, "draft dodgers" in the 20th... we're kinda used to housing US refugees. :)