November 8, 2006
South Dakota’s Small Victory on Abortion
South Dakota voters decided on Tuesday to overturn their state’s near
total abortion ban. That’s a small victory on an issue that, regardless,
won’t go away.
The tragedy of abortion is magnified and repeated by turning a private
emergency into a very public, political football. Make no mistake. An
unwanted pregnancy is a disaster - a crisis of spiritual and emotional
dimensions as well as physical proportions.
have walked in the unhappy shoes of a woman who faces an unwanted
pregnancy, none of us has any right or prerogative to make snap
judgments about her and what she should or shouldn't do about it. There
is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Few women set out to become pregnant when they don’t want to be. And we
compound their sorrow and suffering when we seek to limit women’s
options in such situations.
We also violate the U.S. Constitution and a woman’s free will when we
outlaw her right to choose and thus compel her to bear a child when she
does not want to do so.
Abortion opponents have ridiculed the basis of the Supreme Court’s 1973
Roe vs. Wade decision as founded on a right to privacy that is not
spelled in so many words in the Constitution.
But the Constitution can’t get much more explicit than the 13th
Amendment’s ban on involuntary servitude except as punishment for a
crime. Since when is it a crime to be pregnant and not want to be?
Coercing women into continuing an unwanted pregnancy and giving birth is
nothing less than involuntary servitude to someone else’s religious or
social beliefs. We have a name for coerced sex. We call it rape and make
it a crime. Why then do we not also take a dim view of coerced pregnancy
and childbirth? Why are women’s needs and rights virtually invisible in
all the hot air about abortion?
to choose doesn't inevitably mean a woman will opt for an abortion. Many
years ago, I participated in a healing circle. This gentle, loving
process enabled a woman whose marriage was beyond repair and who already
had one child to summon the faith to continue a pregnancy that she
seriously had considered aborting. She divorced not long after, and her
son will be 17 on his next birthday.
Dakota chosen to deny access to legal and safe abortions, the women in
that state would have paid a high price. Pregnancy and childbirth
involve more risk than most of us realize.
published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
found that the actual incidence of deaths and injuries to women in this
country as a result of pregnancy and childbirth might be twice as high
as the officially reported rate.
Carrying a pregnancy to term and then delivering is 11 times more risky
than a legal abortion, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
In a nation
that claims self-determination as one of its founding precepts, each
woman has the constitutional right to assume or reject those risks. If
she chooses to continue her pregnancy, I applaud her courage and hope to
celebrate with her the birth of a healthy, wanted child and her own
But if she
doesn't want to face those risks or has any other reason for not wanting
to continue her pregnancy, no one has either the constitutional or the
spiritual right to violate that woman’s free will by compelling her to
remain pregnant and give birth because the safe alternative has been
outlawed. No one.
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