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News :: Gender : Human Rights : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare
South Dakota's Abortion Ban: A Discussion by Reproductive Freedom Activist Marlene Gerber Fried
05 Mar 2006
On February 24th, the state of South Dakota passed a ban on nearly all abortions. The ban, which is expected to take effect this July, will shut down the state's one abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, forcing many pregnant females to travel long distances or perhaps seek underground providers. The ban is expected to challenge Roe versus Wade, the 33-year-old legislation that legalized abortion in the U.S.

As co-founder of the National Network of Abortion Funds and organizer of Hampshire College's annual reproductive justice conference, Marlene Gerber Fried has a long history within the reproductive justice movement. On Tuesday, February 28th, she spoke near Boston about the meaning of South Dakota's abortion ban. This is an audio recording of her lecture.

[For the whole story, please listen to the posted .mp3 audio file]
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On February 22nd, the state of South Dakota passed a ban on nearly all abortions. The ban, which is expected to take effect this July, will shut down the state's one abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, forcing many pregnant females to travel long distances or perhaps seek underground providers. The ban is expected to challenge Roe versus Wade, the 33-year-old legislation that legalized abortion in the U.S.

As co-founder of the National Network of Abortion Funds and an organizer of Hampshire College's annual reproductive justice conference, Marlene Gerber Fried has a long history within the reproductive justice movement. On Tuesday, February 28th, she spoke near Boston about the meaning of South Dakota's abortion ban. This is an audio excerpt of her lecture.

[For the whole story, please listen to the posted .mp3 audio file]

This work is in the public domain.
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Anti-women bigots go on rampage: South Dakota bill would ban all abortions
05 Mar 2006
Anti-women bigots go on rampage
South Dakota bill would ban all abortions
By Sue Davis
Published Mar 2, 2006 12:41 AM

Legislators in South Dakota voted overwhelmingly in late February for a bill that would ban 99.9 percent of abortions in that state. This includes abortions for victims of rape and incest and to protect the woman’s health. The only exception is if abortion is deemed necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life.

The ban would criminalize women who have abortions and the practitioners who perform them.

Those supporting the ban are up-front about their intentions. They want the bill to be appealed to the Supreme Court, where the new anti-abortion justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito now sit. They’re hoping that the rightist realignment of the court will overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions.

As pro-choice advocates quickly pointed out, those who want to ban abortion have been emboldened by President George W. Bush’s reactionary court appointments. But the fact that there was no real opposition, either from the Democrats in the U.S. Sen ate or by activists in the streets, gave the right-wing a green light.

The vote was 50-18 in the South Dakota House on Feb. 9 and 23-12 in the Senate on Feb. 22. Of 105 legislators in the state, only 19 are women. As pro-choice Rep. Elaine Roberts told KLTM-TV in Sioux Falls, “I’ve heard a great deal from women, but I’ve also heard a great deal from men saying this is not a decision that men ought to make for women. Constituents tell me that the legislature is out of touch with the people who live in South Dakota—two to three to one.” (keloland.com, website of KLTM, Feb. 25)

This is not the first bill banning abortion in South Dakota. One was vetoed on a technicality in 2002 by anti-abortion Gov. Mike Rounds. This time Rounds says he’ll probably sign it. If so, the ban will take effect on July 1. Planned Parenthood, which runs the only women’s health clinic in the state, has announced it will seek an injunction to stop the ban from being implemented. That will send the bill to the courts.

In a related development, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on the legality of the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed in 2003. That bill bans the medical procedure known as intact dilation and extraction (IDE) used for abortions after 20 weeks. While abortion foes have used IDE to demonize all abortions, IDE is performed only in 0.01 percent of cases when other procedures would endanger a woman’s life.

President Death attacks women’s rights

This all-out attack on legal abortion puts women in the cross hairs of the misogynist, patriarchal, right-wing posse headed by Bush and his neo-con cohorts running the government on behalf of the ruling class. Though Bush claims he’s for a “culture of life,” his every policy—from the murderous war in Iraq and Afghanistan to his cutbacks in health care, education and housing needed to raise healthy children—exposes his hypocritical stance.

When Bush was governor of Texas, he was called Governor Death because the state of Texas killed over 150 prisoners on death row on his watch. Now he should be known as President Death because so many of his policies lead there—from the federal government’s do-nothing response after Hurricane Katrina to its deliberate slaughter of Iraqis and Afghans, causing thousands of U.S. youth to die as well.

Though labeling Bush President Death may be a catchy way to expose him, it doesn’t convey the extent of how the whole current socioeconomic and cultural climate negatively impacts—and is really hostile to—the vast majority of poor and working women in this country.

In every aspect of daily life, women’s reproductive rights are being undermined and negated. As an article in the Feb. 23 issue of Workers World pointed out, access to abortion, comprehensive sex education, effective birth control, affordable pre-natal and other health care and a caring, supportive social climate don’t exist for millions of young, poor, rural women who are disproportionately African American, Latina and—especially in the state of South Dakota—Native people.

But reproductive rights aren’t related merely to sexuality, though they include full rights for lesbians, bi and trans women, freedom from stereotyped gender roles, an end to sexual harassment and vio lence against women and no forced sterilization. Reproductive rights are a constellation of social, economic and cultural conditions that allow every woman to make informed decisions about her life.

It’s really a program for women’s right to control their lives—a platform of demands needed for women’s liberation.

The minimum wage is only $5.15 an hour. Most new jobs pay no more than that. Meanwhile, the cost of education, transportation and housing are rising steeply. It’s getting harder and harder for women, young and old, to get by.

How can you make a real choice if you’re unexpectedly pregnant and you’re a single mother with a minimum-wage job and two kids to feed, clothe, educate and house? That isn’t a choice. That’s between a rock and a hard place.

Wake-up call for
women activists

What can women do to counter these attacks on their right to life? They can take a lesson from history about how abortion became legal.

It’s estimated that, during the first half of the 20th century, between 200,000 and 1 million women sought illegal abortions each year. Approxi mately 5,000 of them died from unsani tary, botched, back-alley procedures.

As women came of age during the huge civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, and marched against the war in Vietnam, they more and more rejected their subjugated-class status.

Recognizing they couldn’t be equal with men as long as they couldn’t control their bodies, women raised the cry for “free abortion on demand.” And they took to the streets in cities from coast to coast. A spontaneous demonstration of thousands of women—Black, Latina and white—in New York City on Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, 1970, was a watershed. Later that year anti-abortion laws were overturned in Colorado, Hawaii and New York.

The momentum mounted as doctors and lawyers joined the campaign. A Texas abortion case was soon appealed to the Supreme Court. Even though the court had three Demo cratic appointees versus six Republican appointees, it ruled in a 7-2 decision to legalize abortion, but set limits after three months of the pregnancy.

So religious and political foes began to coalesce. Starting with the Hyde Amend ment in 1977, which outlawed Medicaid payments for abortions for poor women, attacks on legal abortion began. Since then most states have passed parental notification laws and other restrictions. Forty clinics have been bombed, and there have been more than 100 cases of arson and assault on clinics and hundreds of incidents of stalking and bomb threats. Seven health care providers have been murdered, with 17 attempted murders. Clinics have been blockaded in many cities, including week-long sieges in New York City, Wichita, Kan., and Buffalo, N.Y.

Organizers of clinic defense in 1992 in Buffalo believe the lessons they learned then are needed now. “The only way we were able to defend the clinics was by putting the struggle in the general context of fighting for health care for all poor and working people. The thousands of women and male allies who came out recognized the need for unity and solidarity,” says Ellie Dorritie.

“It was truly a mass mobilization on the order of a general strike,” says Beverly Hiestand. “We need to organize a new women’s movement, with women of color, youth and lesbians in leadership. That will ensure it includes all aspects of women’s rights—national health care, good-paying jobs, affordable housing and free, quality public education from pre-school through college—not just legal abortion. We need to link up with other progressive struggles, like organized labor, the anti-war movement, the fight for LGBT rights and against all forms of racism. History shows that the only way to change things is through struggle.”

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww (at) workers.org
Subscribe wwnews-subscribe (at) workersworld.net
Support independent news http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php
See also:
http://www.workers.org/
http://www.workers.org/2006/us/abortion-0309/
Re: South Dakota's Abortion Ban: A Discussion by Reproductive Freedom Activist Marlene Gerber Fried
06 Mar 2006
as always, excellent report h-fries. thanks for your articles!
Re: South Dakota's Abortion Ban: A Discussion by Reproductive Freedom Activist Marlene Gerber Fried
06 Mar 2006
I really feel we need to start contextualizing this in terms not only of health care, but of basic human rights. Forced labor is exactly that, and mandatory motherhood is not compatible with a free polity.
The idea that a human being could be coerced, upon threat of incarceration and worse, to use their body for 9 + or - months for the desires or dictates of someone else, whether it be state, father, husband, church, or whomever, has to be shown up to be the violation of the 13th amendment that it is.
Forced gestation is slavery. And we shouldn't let the discourse be fogged up or moved away from that basic fact.
Some people are never satisfied.
07 Mar 2006
There is a double standard. If a pro choicer posted something like "Stop those damn bastards." Sofia would let it stay up, because she's biased. However when I post that I agree with the ban, she disrupts my post, calling it disruptive and then informs me that MY opinion must be well reasoned and intellectual in order not to be oppressed by her.

This is an unreasonable and deliberately scheming attempt to squelch discussion, and bogusly portray an illusion of consensus -- a flaw of such a system.

Anyway, to appease her highness, my well reasoned argument in favor of the ban is that it will provoke a final decision in the supreme court which may ultimately result in a more practical and humane application of Roe v Wade, wherein all abortion is banned after the first trimester, and parental notification is mandated, forcing irresponsible young women to get on the ball and make a decision in a reasonable amount of time.

After this is in place for a while it will finally stifle the bogus scare claims that all kinds of women are going to die from not being able to take 9 months to murder their fetus.
Re: South Dakota's Abortion Ban: A Discussion by Reproductive Freedom Activist Marlene Gerber Fried
08 Mar 2006
Thanks for the well thought-out response...
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