Recently, the Eight Circuit court of appeals ruled that a South Dakota law requiring doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” should be sent back to federal District Court to decide constitutionality. In the meantime, the state may begin enforcement of the law. According to an AP story, The court ruled on June 27
that Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has not provided enough evidence that it is likely to prevail.
“The bottom line is if the state Legislature orders a professional to tell the truth, that’s not a violation of the First Amendment,” said South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who is defending the law in court.
Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said such rulings generally take about three weeks to take effect. Long said it could take less time.
Predictably, reaction was mixed to the ruling
Harold Cassidy, a lawyer representing two pregnancy counseling centers that support the abortion law, hailed the ruling.
“We think it’s a big victory for the woman obviously to be given accurate information in order to make a decision not only for the child, but also for herself,” Cassidy said.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the law would force doctors to read ideological language to women seeking abortions.
“They are imposing compelled speech on doctors. It is not about providing information to women. It is about intruding in the doctor-patient relationship. It is unprecedented and extremely outrageous,” Stoesz said.
According to the AP story, the law also requires women to be told the potential mental health risks of abortion. I have addressed that informed consent issue in prior articles.
Two points are at issue: prescribing professional speech and the accuracy of the prescribed speech. Professional disclosure is sometimes prescribed by law. For instance, many states require licensed psychotherapists to provide a disclosure statement to clients regarding services and means of handling complaints. The South Dakota statement is very specific and no doubt is intended to discourage abortions. The second issue is the accuracy of the information. Pro-life advocates are united that abortion ends a life, hence their opposition to abortion. But what do pro-choice doctors believe? Do they really believe performing an abortion results in the termination of a life? To get this perspective, I consulted noted abortion doctor and friend of Hillary Clinton, Dr. William Harrison. I referred to Dr. Harrison via Dr. Paul Kengor’s book on the faith of Hillary Clinton in a former post, noting that Dr. Harrison was
Hillary’s personal OB-GYN in the early 1970s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has done about 20,000 abortions. He was interviewed at length for my book. He was quite candid, extremely open, and very generous with his time. He likewise is a Methodist. He says that he prays to God that Hillary will be our next president.
I emailed Dr. Harrison regarding the South Dakota law. While his prayers regarding Hillary have not been answered, he clearly does not support the Republican ticket due to his pro-choice position as will be clear from his responses to me. I asked him if the South Dakota statement was accurate, to which he replied
Life is being terminated when a male wears a condom, or has a wet dream or “spills his seed of life on the ground” or in someone’s mouth or anus. Or when he ejaculates into the vagina of a women who isn’t ovulating or is post menopausal. The sperm are alive until they die. And the egg is alive until it dies. Each is a unique human life, etc.
The only reason the S.Dakota leg passed that law was to either make a girl or woman who was not prepared to have a baby have that baby, or to make her suffer as much emotionally as they could.
It is a piece of shit legislation, designed solely to increase human suffering. A few days ago I wrote a letter to our state and local newspapers. I will send you a copy which describes exactly what I think about this type of legislation.
I wrote back and asked for clarification regarding prevention of conception and ending of life. He then provided the copy of the letter to the editor he mentioned in the first email which makes his views even more clear. He gave permission to use both email replies. The Christian acquaintance referred to in this letter is my GCC colleague and author, Paul Kengor.
Letter to the editor.
A few days ago I got a question from a Christian Pro-Life acquaintance. [What follows is a paraphrase of part of a letter I got from your friend and colleague. I sent him a somewhat longer reply. I also sent him a copy of my book, There is a Bomb In Gilead. Ask him to let you read it.]
“I understand fully that you see your work as saving women from an unwanted pregnancy that might, if illegal, lead them to dangerous “back alley abortions,” doing them great harm or perhaps even killing them. I, as a prolife Christian, don’t want to see them hurt or killed. On the other hand, by doing an abortion, you are taking a life – an innocent one that has no say in the decision. I rarely hear pro-choicers lament that decision, the loss of the unborn.
“Do you ever regret that part of the decision? How do you come to terms with that, or do you not see the fetus as a life or a person? I don’t want to see either one die, and would do my best to save both. But your work on the other hand, seeks the end of one of these lives. How do you justify that decision?”
Here is my answer: Anyone who has delivered as many babies as I have, and has seen hundreds of living and dead embryos and fetuses being spontaneously aborted as have I, knows exactly what we are doing when we provide an elective abortion for our patient. We are ending the life of an embryo or a fetus. Not the life of a person, but certainly a creature that might have become a person under other circumstances. When I am asked this question, I always go back to two of the most insightful and beautiful verses of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam.
Oh, if the world were but to recreate
That we might catch ere closed the Book of Fate
And make the Writer on a fairer leaf
Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate.
Better, oh, better cancel from the Scroll
Of universe one luckless Human Soul,
Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that roars
Hoarser with Anguish as the ages roll.
When Omar wrote his beautiful and treasured poem over a thousand years ago, mankind had no way of safely canceling “from the scroll of universe one luckless human soul” whose numbers make up that flood of howling anguish; at least, no way of canceling it without risking also the life of the woman carrying it. In this day of medical marvels and, hopefully, ever increasing social justice, we possess such a way.
Embryos and fetuses spontaneously aborted - most, but not all of those “canceled” by “God” - are just such luckless human souls. But a few spontaneous abortions occur in desired pregnancies with no discernable abnormalities. For those girls and women and their families whose circumstances would make their babies “luckless human souls,” I “cancel” them before they become babies.
Physicians who save wanted babies from being spontaneously aborted (and we can save a few now that God once seemed determined to abort), and we who cancel “luckless human souls” are doing God’s work.
Want to increase Omar’s flood of anguish? Just vote to put John McCain in the White House and Pro-Lifers in your legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
Can the worldview divide get any greater? In my view, life is sacred and in Dr. Harrison's view, life is subject to means testing. Practically, I am quite sure there are many couples out there who would say that none of these "luckless human souls" are unwanted. Extending this thinking is chilling indeed. Who decides what "family circumstances" warrant the status of being "luckless?" Who decides who is luckless and who is not? In my view, the lucky ones are those who escape a visit to the abortion clinic.
Speaking of decisions, Dr. Harrison places his views in the context of the current election. Clearly there is an ideological divide between Barack Obama and John McCain, the religious left and religious right on abortion. While Dr. Harrison does not like the South Dakota legislation, it does appear that if the wording was changed from “terminate a life" to “cancel a soul," he would view the information as accurate. I fail to see the difference.
What would Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain say about this?
Weigh in here and/or at my personal blog on this topic.
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