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.
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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.
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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.