Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why I don't live in South Dakota

In South Dakota, starting in July, doctors who provide abortions will have to provide their patients with "medical information" provided by the state legislature. The statement begins by informing the patients that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." (Is that a statement of fact? Because I'm pretty sure that's a question of opinion that lies somewhere near the center of the abortion debate. I know I don't think of a fetus as a whole, separate, unique human being.)

Furthermore, doctors must tell their patients that they have "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that is constitutionally protected. The law also does mandate some actual medical-like information , like about the potential risks and side effects of the procedure, with an emphasis on depression and suicidal ideation. It's not really accurate or full information, but it is arguably medical. But let's be real about the true purpose of this statement doctors are required by law to give: it's a last-ditch effort to guilt women into continuing their unwanted pregnancies. Regardless of their reasons for terminating.

Emily Bazelon at Slate has written a more thought-out response here. I'm too pissed off to be that eloquent. And I'm certainly not in a place to make a logical response progress to a proper conclusion. I'm just sick of this crap. Women are not such fragile creatures that we need to be protected from our own decision-making skills. We really are capable of making the right decisions for ourselves. And we're perfectly capable of living with the consequences of those decisions. By the time we've gotten to the abortion clinic, we've probably thought A LOT about this decision. And the doctors already have ethical obligations to ensure we have all the medical information necessary.

I'm all for patients having as much information as possible before making their decisions. But that's not what this is. Not even close. If the damn legislators who passed this paternalistic crap really cared about informed consent, wouldn't they include information about all of the risks and possible side effects of pregnancy? I think I heard that mortality rates for women in childbirth have actually gone back up in recent years. How about some detailed information about post-partum depression? No, pregnant women don't need to hear about that kind of thing because the legislators of South Dakota don't really give a rat's ass about properly informing you so you can make the best decision for your life. They just want to make sure you make the decision they want you to make.

But I don't really think the legislature of South Dakota is in the best place to make that decision for every single woman who might seek an abortion in that state. Nor do I think they ought to force scripts on doctors, especially when the script states as fact an opinion that reasonable, intelligent people can honestly and passionately disagree about. So how about the legislature sticks to funding schools and rewriting the criminal code, which I'm sure has some duplications, flaws, and loopholes that defense attorneys love to argue about. While you all are doing that, how about the doctors and women in South Dakota go back to having private consultations, free from forced scripts, so each doctor can help each individual woman make the best decision for her life.


Erin said...


A Voice of Sanity said...

Furthermore, doctors must tell their patients that they have "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that is constitutionally protected.

Why not have it pre-taped and read - by someone who can do a passable imitation of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's day off?

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