Abortion & the Loophole Exception

Yesterday, the Governor of South Dakota signed legislation that would ban abortions except those to save the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood, the sole abortion provider in South Dakota (and the largest in the U.S.), has promised a court battle and lesser abortion proponents have decried the lack of exceptions in this law. The exceptions we typically hear about are for cases of rape and incest and for the life and/or health of the mother. Did you know, though, that the first three exceptions—rape, incest, life of the mother—comprise less than 5% (possibly much less) of the nearly 1.3 million abortions performed each year in the U.S.?

The most staunch abortion proponents know that most Americans oppose most abortions. Even many who identify themselves as “pro-choice” support abortion only in the small percentage of exceptional cases but feel that any infringement on this supposed right will endanger women. Though some states have minor restrictions on abortion (the S.D. bill doesn’t go into effect until July, if at all), the fact of the matter is that we have abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy in the U.S. Read that last sentence again.

Let’s look at that fourth exception—the “health of the mother” exception. What does it really mean? Anything you want it to. The meaning of rape, incest and life of the mother are obvious. To many these exceptions sound reasonable (though I’d argue only for the last for reasons I won’t get into here), but this “health of the mother” exception sounds pretty reasonable, too. It’s not. It allows restrictions on abortions to be circumvented A legislature may pass a law banning all abortions except those in these rare instances and if a “health of the mother” exception is forced upon them, any reason from not wanting to look fat in a swimsuit (mental distress) to genuine concerns about one’s health can be used to invoke the “health of the mother” exception and legally get an abortion. Something to keep in mind in the next couple years as the Supreme and other courts continue to take on the issue of abortion. Stay tuned…

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