As few of you may know, two weeks ago on Jan. 22, the South Dakota legislature passed a law outlawing almost all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Of course, Planned Parenthood will contest the ban, and the case may ultimately go on to the Supreme Court, battling the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. While I feel pro-life advocates have every right to believe whatever they want, and I respect that, there are a variety of huge problems with the legislation passed in South Dakota.First of all, this ban attacks the rights of women and families to make private, personal decisions about whether or not and when to have children. The ban is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and directly violates the fundamental right to privacy and the right to make private, personal health care decisions.
Secondly, this legislation is wildly out of step with mainstream America. Polling consistently shows the majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, and while choice includes abortion, it is not limited to it. Adoption, birth and birth control are also fundamental choices that Planned Parenthood and pro-choice advocates offer women in regards to pregnancy.
And finally, I feel that there is a much larger issue that must be discussed, and completely banning abortions side steps the true problems in the United States. Those are the issues of education and accessibility in regards to contraceptives. If politicians in South Dakota truly cared about reducing the number of abortions, they would work with Planned Parenthood to increase access to contraception and medically-accurate sex education. However, across the country abstinence only education is being taught in schools and pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraceptives because of their personal beliefs. Pro-choice activists do not force members of pro-life organizations to have abortions or even use birth control, so why then should those who are pro-choice be forced to have children, just because someone of a different belief feels they should not be allowed birth control.
Overall, this legislation is only going to hurt the residents of South Dakota and the United States and force women into the dangerous at-home remedies that led to many deaths in the beginning of the last century. Poverty and overpopulation are already a huge issue in our country. We cannot and should not eliminate abortion without at least working to improve education and the availability of contraceptives.
In the end I feel pro-choice and pro-life advocates share a common belief that unwanted children should not be brought into a world of abuse, neglect and poverty. While they share different opinions on the direction of this goal, I feel they can come to somewhat of a middle ground and focus on preventative measures such as complete sexual education programs in schools and widely available contraception that will lessen the need for abortions. Unfortunately, I do not see many pro-life activists working with schools, Planned Parenthood and other agencies to improve existing education to eliminate the need for abortion, and until that does happen, infringing on personal privacy and choice is not going to solve anything related to this issue.
Natalie Shaak is the Managing Editor of The Quad.