By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas—South Dakota is so rarely found on the leading edge of the far out, the wiggy, the California-esque. But it has now staked its claim. First to Outlaw Abortion This Century. The state legislature of South Dakota, in all its wisdom and majesty, a legislature comprised of sons and daughters of the soil from Aberdeen to Zell, have usurped the right of the women of that state to decide whether or not to bear the child of an unwanted pregnancy. They will decide. Women will do what they decide.
These towering solons, representing citizens from the great cosmopolitan centers of Rapid City and Sioux Falls to the bosky dells near Yankton, are noted for their sagacity and understanding. When you think “enlightenment,” the first thing that comes to your mind is “the South Dakota Legislature,” right?
As well it might. The purpose of the law is to force a decision from the United States Supreme Court, where the appointments of John Roberts and Sam Alito have now shored up the anti-choice forces.
The South Dakota Legislature has made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion under any circumstances except to save the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or to preserve the health of the mother. Should this strike you as hard cheese, State Sen. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid City, explains how rape and incest could be exceptions under the “life” clause. Napoli believes most abortions are performed for “convenience,” but he told “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” about how he thinks a “real-life example” of the exception could be invoked:
“A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl, could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.”
Please stop and reread the paragraph above. See? Clearly Napoli’s exception would not apply to the South Dakota woman also interviewed by the NewsHour. “Michelle” is in her 20s, has a low-paying job and two children. And says she simply cannot afford a third. She drove five hours to the state’s only abortion clinic.
“It was difficult when I found out I was pregnant. I was saddened because I knew that I’d probably have to make this decision. Like I said, I have two children, so I look into their eyes and I love them. It’s been difficult, you know, it’s not easy. And I don’t think it’s, you know, ever easy on a woman, but we need that choice.”
But who is she to make that choice when Bill Napoli can make it for her? He explains: “When I was growing up here in the wild west, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn’t allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again. ... I don’t think we’re so far beyond that, that we can’t go back to that.”
I find this so profound I am considering putting Sen. Napoli in charge of all moral, ethical and medical decisions made by women. Certainly lucky for the women of South Dakota that he’s there, and perhaps that’s what we all need—a man to make decisions for us in case we should decide to do something serious just for our own convenience.
Look at some of the incompetent women we have running around in this country—Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, now there are a couple of girls in need of guidance from the South Dakota legislature. Female doctors, lawyers, airplane pilots, engineers and, for that matter, female members of the South Dakota Legislature—who could ever trust them with an important decision?
In South Dakota, pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription for contraceptives should it trouble their conscience, and some groups who worked on the anti-abortion bill believe contraception also needs to be outlawed. Good plan. After that, we’ll reconsider women’s property rights, civil right and voting rights.
For years, the women’s movement has been going around asking, “Who decides?” as though that were the issue. Well, here’s the answer. Bill Napoli decides, and if you’re not happy with that arrangement, well, you’d better be prepared to do something about it.