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The South Dakota Gambit

Andrew Sullivan notes that the editors of NRO are conflicted over the South Dakota law banning all abortions except to save the mother's life:

We have mixed feelings about these laws. We share the pro-life objectives that animate them, but we doubt that they actually advance those objectives.

Alan Akers, a former South Dakota State Senator, voiced a similarly contradictory opinion earlier this week in the Rapid City Journal:

And so, as a candidate and a legislator, I had no hesitation in saying I supported a ban on abortion, with no exceptions for rape and incest.

Even so, the Legislature made a mistake in refusing to include these exceptions in their abortion ban.

If Gov. Mike Rounds signs the abortion ban, I'll be surprised if the pro-choice side doesn't gather the necessary signatures to put it to a vote of the people this November. Why would I fear that? After all, we pro-lifers have always claimed we have the majority of the electorate on our side.

I fear that referendum because, by the time we vote, it won't be a straightforward choice between pro-choice and pro-life. Pro-life would win. No, what we'll be voting on this November is whether the state of South Dakota is going to make the emotionally shattered, physically battered 16-year-old rape victim into a criminal. Never mind that the law would only charge the abortionist with the crime. Never mind the statistics on how few victims of a brutal rape would become pregnant and decide they want an abortion. We'll be voting on whether our state should be pointing fingers at that broken, battered young girl.

Fears that the ban is a tactical mistake on the part of the pro-life movement are well founded. The issue is always ripe for demagoguery, and one doesn't have to flex the imagination too hard to visualize how some will use the ban to try and scare people across the country out of their wits. In today's Salt Lake Tribune Molly Ivins provides a decent example of the over-the-top fearmongering we can expect on the issue:

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. [snip]

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 rights and voting rights.

Ivins' rhetorical excess sounds similar to Hillary Clinton's standard refrain about the right wing trying to "turn back the clock on the progress of the 20th Century." I'll be surprised if Hilllary doesn't cite the South Dakota ban at some point as proof her concerns are legitimate and also use it to try and further position herself in the center.