Irving: Caution Needed on South Dakota "Abortion Bill" - HB-1191

Dianne Irving Comments
Feb. 9, 2004
Reproduced with Permission

S. Dakota House Committee Approves Bill Stating Life Begins At Conception; Legal Challenges Expected

[[Note: Aside from the "pros" and "cons" of this South Dakota "abortionÊbill" as listed in the articleÊbelow, there is anotherÊfatal flaw, I would respectfully suggest,Êthat should be of great concern to allÊthose who want to protect all innocent human life. The South DakotaÊbill defines ALL human beings as beginning at fertilization. This is scientifically absurd and incorrect, and could lead to one bad bill (S. Dakota HB-1191)Êbeing substituted for another bad bill (Roe vs Wade) -- and another 50 years to undo it.

It is scientifically not true that all human beings begin to exist at fertilization. Some human beings begin to existÊimmediately at fertilization (sexual human reproduction). Other human beings begin to exist immediately at cloning, or immediately using genetic engineering (asexual human reproduction) -- and this includes not only human embryos cloned in vitro, but also all human beings cloned "naturally"Êin vivo, such as normal human monozygotic twins and triplets. Virtually all of these human lives would be redefined out of existence if ANY bill insists on defining ALL human beings as beginning to existÊONLY at fertilization. That would actually mean that such natural humanÊtwins and triplets COULD BE ABORTED IN VIVO, not to mention that all human beings reproduced asexually in the lab would simply not exist for legal purposes. It would also mean thatÊALL ofÊthose human lives -- whether reproduced in vivo or in vitro -- would be legallyÊrendered meaningless, with no ethical or legal rights and protections -- hence just imagine what could be done with them if such anÊerroneous scientific definition is passed into ANY law -- a virtual green light for any and all human research cloning and genetic engineering experiments! Indeed, such experimental human embryos could be implanted into unsuspecting or compliant women for research purposes, and this law would not prohibit these asexually reproducedÊexperimental embryos and fetuses from being aborted for developmental study purposes.

If those in "prolife" who want to refuse to get involved in the cloning/human embryonic stem cell/human genetic engineering debates want to restrict their concerns to just in vivo abortion, that is understandable. But at least don't help concretize into state and later federal law erroneous scientific definitions that would destroy any legal standing for prolife legislation on these other crucial issues, paving the way for horrendous abuses and death for a multitude of innocent nascentÊhuman lives in the future --Êas well asÊthe lives of multitudes of women who will be subjected to eugenic and experimental abortions. Any piece of legislation that attempts to SCIENTIFICALLYÊdefine when human beings begin to exist must include both sexual as well as asexual methods of human reproduction. -- DNI]]

Posted on Fri, Feb. 06, 2004
Abortion bill sent to House floor
Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. - Tear by tear, sobbing women from South Dakota and other states went to the microphone Thursday evening to tell legislators of being haunted by agony and lingering shame years after having abortions.

Some said they tried suicide, others told of those who had killed themselves. A young baby occasionally cooed in the crowd, a tender contrast to the emotional testimony and graphic photos of aborted fetuses displayed in the packed Capitol room.

For an hour, grieving women, several doctors and some lawyers pleaded with members of the House State Affairs Committee to approve a bill that would make most abortions illegal in South Dakota. The panel voted 11-2 to send the measure to the House floor for additional debate.

The final person speaking in favor of the bill was 16-year-old Alecia Johnson of Pierre. She said she has not had an abortion, and she wondered how anyone could.

"If you throw this bill out, you're saying that you condone murder," the teen told lawmakers.

"Life is given from God," she continued. "A person is a person right from conception."

The legislation declares it public policy in South Dakota that life begins at the moment a woman's egg is fertilized by a man's sperm. It makes abortion illegal unless the life of a woman is at risk by giving birth.

"Human life applies to all human beings, born or unborn," the measure declares.

The penalty for those who do illegal abortions would be a maximum five years in prison, but no criminal penalty could be lodged against women who get abortions.

Opponents warned legislators that passing the measure would be a costly mistake. South Dakota will wind up in court, and the legal fees will be huge, they said, reminding state lawmakers that the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark 1973 ruling that abortion is legal.

Pierre attorney Neil Fulton, who is a Catholic, said he is conflicted by the legislation because he feels abortion is wrong but also believes the courts will throw out a law that bans abortion.

"Unconstitutional laws cost the state of South Dakota tons of money," he said.

Fulton said the Supreme Court ruled as recently as 1992 that abortions cannot be prevented before a fetus is viable, or that point at which an unborn could survive outside the womb. Until that stage of development is reached, the justices have ruled that a woman's personal interest in getting an abortion cannot be thwarted by the state, he said.

After viability has been reached, the state has a paramount interest in protecting life, Fulton added.

Rep. Bill Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, acknowledged that the attorney general has estimated it would cost $500,000 to defend an abortion lawsuit. If the state would lose and have to pay attorneys on the other side, that could probably boost the expense for taxpayers to $1 million, he said.

"How much is the value of one human life?" Peterson asked, adding that he believes life begins at conception. "What's being done here is to extend a right to life to the unborn."

If the measure does nothing else, perhaps it will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to finally define the beginning of life, Peterson said. If modern medicine and science can more definitely determine that life begins much earlier than previously thought, many abortions can be prevented, he said.

Instead of passing the bill, Rep. Mel Olson, D-Mitchell, suggested that South Dakota press for a constitutional convention of states to decide if abortion should be banned.

Arguing against the bill, Olson said legislators should at least include a $1 million appropriation in the measure to cover the cost of a legal challenge. "If in fact we're serious about this, we should put our money where our mouth is."

The panel also rejected a substitute proposal by Olson to prevent most abortions after the 23rd week of pregnancy by stating that fetal viability begins at that point.

Olson said he could not vote for HB1191 because it is an unconstitutional infringement of a woman's right to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.

"I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and so, while radical Islam worries me, I cannot ban that religion. While the sentiments of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are offensive, they have the right to express them," Olson said. "We had an opportunity tonight to do a constitutional thing and achieve the same purpose, and we did not."

Harold Cassidy, a New Jersey lawyer well-versed in appellate rulings, said the bill would pose a unique appeal to the Supreme Court. Defining that life begins at conception and arguing that women who've had abortions suffer emotionally for years may prompt the justices to hear the case, he said.

Cassidy said he thinks the proposed law could cause the high court to overturn the 31-year-old ruling that abortion is legal.

"If you can prove the facts, the allegations you made, it will be upheld," he said of HB1191.

Cassidy noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has reversed its own decisions more than 300 times over the years as society has changed.

Kate Looby, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, opposed the bill because it does not have an exception for rape or incest. Most South Dakotans favor allowing abortions in those cases, she said.

Abortions are done at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls.

Looby said banning abortions wouldn't solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies.

"The problem is that we have too many unplanned pregnancies," she said.

Looby said she is offended by people who imply that an abortion is a rash decision.

"The question is, who is going to make that decision? You, or that woman in consultation with family, faith and physician?" she asked.

Nicole Osmundson, director of abortion recovery services at the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, said she has counseled hundreds of women who have had abortions. Most were pressured to do so by the men who got them pregnant or their parents, she said.

Women suffer for years after abortions, Osmundson said.

"The emotional pain is prolonged," she said.

Rep. Matt McCaulley, R-Sioux Falls, prime sponsor of the bill, said he hopes any legal challenge would lead the U.S. Supreme Court to finally decide when life begins. That was not settled when the justices issued their 1973 ruling in the Roe vs. Wade case, he said.

McCaulley insisted that life begins at conception. Abortion is a crime and results in the death of a human being, he said, urging approval of HB1191.

"This bill would make South Dakota the safest place in the country for pregnant women and unborn children," he said. "If something is growing and developing, life should be given a chance."

John Brannian, a reproductive scientist in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, said scientific evidence does not give answers to when life begins.

"The question of when life begins is a very, very complex issue that can only be determined by one's beliefs and opinions," he told legislators.

A woman from Dana Point, Calif., Lisa Hartman, said she became pregnant during a rape and later had an abortion. She has never gotten over it, she said.

"I had two rapes, first by the man who spit on me when he was through, and second, by the abortionist who robbed me of my baby," Hartman said. "Let me tell you, the second rape, the abortion, was much worse than the first one."

Trish Short of Baltimore, Md., tearfully told of an abortion at 19, describing it as a vicious death.

"Why is this legal, and how can it be legal?" she asked. "They killed my baby and I want him back, but I can't get him back."

Gripping testimony also came from Lisa Arnold of Louisville, Ky., who said she was pressured as a teenager by family and friends to have an abortion. The experience was devastating, she said.

"The only relief I felt was that I had been a good girl and had done what they'd told me to do," she said.

Arnold said she eventually turned to drugs and alcohol to erase the memory, but it will not go away. She said she has counseled women for 10 years who have had abortions, and most tell of similar experiences.

"Why hasn't the government brought this devastation to an end?" Arnold asked. "Abortion not only destroys children, it destroys women."

She told a grisly story of hemorrhaging while returning to her home immediately after an abortion at 17.

"I cleaned up all the blood that I could, and I flushed my twins down the toilet," Arnold said, "and I wonder how anyone can paint abortion as good for women."

Greg Brewers, lobbyist for the South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women, said similar legislation in other states has been overruled by courts.

"It is extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court would even hear the case," he added.

Gov. Mike Rounds, who opposes abortion, has not said if he would sign the measure.

"We've looked at several ways to eliminate abortions in the past and to restrict them, and I think most people in the state agree with what's been done," he recently told The Associated Press. "But there has to be some evidence that the approach will actually eliminate abortions in order for it to be a good bill."

Rep. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, who joined Olson in voting against the bill, said it is only rhetoric and would cost South Dakota $1 million.

"I don't believe for a second it's going to stop a single abortion," he said shortly before the impassioned four and a half hour meeting ended. [If you wish to be removed from this list, please send request to:]