I feel so sorry for the women of South Dakota who dare fall pregnant against their wishes. Personal reproductive choice is being limited even more than ever all over the country as illustrated by the new bill signed into law by SD Governor Dennis Daugaard. This new law requires a three-day waiting period before a woman is allowed to have her abortion–the longest wait anywhere in the nation. Women are also forced to attend anti-abortion counseling sessions at pregnancy help centers.
Since many of these centers are specifically Christian institutions, the balance of this “counseling” is easily called into question. The point of these centers is to convince women that their choice is wrong and that they are broken, fallen people who need to carry their babies full-term. I used to volunteer at a pregnancy counseling center as a teenager, and our training centered around convincing girls and women of three things: God loved them, abortion is murder, and sex before marriage is wrong. At my center, we were taught to show you care for the women by praying with and evangelize them. You want them to trust you and believe what you say so that you can save the life of the unborn children. Your entire mission is to save the baby and the woman’s soul.
This piece explains how I feel about the new SD law:
That the anti-choice movement is mostly a Christianist movement bent on imposing its religious beliefs on the public at large is one of the most under-discussed aspects of the abortion debate. This law should highlight the theocratic underpinnings of the anti-choice movement. Most and probably all crisis pregnancy centers are religious organizations that object to abortion because it conflicts with their religious dogma about female sexuality, women’s roles, and their belief about when the soul enters the body. Requiring women to sit through a lecture on Christian ethics about sexuality before getting an abortion should be a clear-cut case of a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, even if the crisis pregnancy centers are careful to avoid saying the word “Jesus” too much.
Republican state senator Al Novstrup claimed the bill is somehow protective of women, offering them a “second opinion,” which indicates not just his disrespect for religious freedom but his profound ignorance of options counseling typical to abortion clinics, especially Planned Parenthood, which runs the sole abortion clinic in the state. I don’t imagine he’d see it that way if the state required citizens to hear a “second opinion” about other private decisions based on personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Would Novstrup enjoy having to listen to a lecture from an atheist or Muslim group before joining a church, getting married or making plans for his own funeral? Why then is it appropriate to force women to listen to religious lectures before making a decision that involves their own religious beliefs about life?