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South Dakota's New Abortion Restrictions Reveal Theocratic Intentions

Written by Amanda Marcotte for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Leave it to the legislature of South Dakota, which tried to ban abortion outright but found the law rejected by a popular vote, to come around in a season of unprecedented attacks on women’s rights and really stand out from the crowd.  The new law requiring a three-day waiting period and a lecture from the busybodies at crisis pregnancy centers before you get an abortion now almost surely qualifies as the most restrictive abortion law in the country, especially since the single provider in South Dakota has to fly doctors in and may not be able to handle the three day waiting period requirement.  But what’s really amazing is how overtly theocratic the law is.  Anti-choicers are usually cognizant of the danger of being perceived as shoving their religious dogma on others through the law, because it’s expressly forbidden in the Constitution, even though that’s exactly what they’re doing.  But now the pretense of secularism is barely even shrugged at, because there is no way that sending women to religious institutions to get religiously motivated lectures about religious dogma isn’t a strike against religious freedom. 

I expressed this concern at Alternet, and Michelle Goldberg made the same observation in The Daily Beast, and joked to me on Twitter that the phrase “secular crisis pregnancy center” made as much sense as saying “secular mass and secular madrassas.”  Michelle’s research indicates that proponents of this law are aware that this could be a problem, because they assure her the law requires women to consent before having to hear a Jesus lecture.  But remember that the women are already there under duress, and may not think they have many rights.  Also, the folks doing the reassuring, Leslee and Allen Unruh, are hardly the most reliable people.  Leslee has faced trouble with the law for illegal bribery to give babies up for adoption, and she also lied to the New York Times, telling them CPC counseling is provided by medical professionals, when in fact CPCs are unregulated and usually run by volunteers. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust folks like that to keep the Jesus talk to a minimum when the door is shut and they have an already non-consenting woman in their snare. ... Read more