Guest Blogger: Dr. David Toub, M.D.

“A disaster waiting to happen”

This really pissed me off. Just consider what this elected official in South Dakota said, in response to a question asking for a scenario in which an exception for the life of the mother would encompass pregnancies due to rape or incest:

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Ridiculous ideas like this are not unique to South Dakota. There are movements on to declare Christianity a state religion, to ban contraception, pornography and abortion around a new Catholic University sponsored by the founder of Domino’s Pizza, to ban contraception, etc.

Clearly religion is a main motivator of these efforts—I’m not seeing many calls to ban EC from people who belong to the Society for Ethical Culture. The idea that there is a defined beginning to life, namely at conception, is a religious and moral determination, not one that is scientific or medical. Medicine defines pregnancy in terms of an implanted embryo. A four-cell conceptus does not a pregnancy make, and discarding a four-cell embryo in an IVF lab is not murder nor is it abortion.

So the idea that EC and even all hormonal contraception is abortifacient is not grounded in science but rather in religious thought. The idea that a woman does not have a fundamental right to an abortion, even with certain restrictions, except when her life alone is in danger (and it’s a wonder that even that exception was placed in to the SD law that was signed earlier this week) also has its roots in religion. I don’t think the SD decision to ban virtually all abortion arises out of secular thought. It’s certainly not something with a scientific or medical basis. Medically, we know that from a public health perspective, banning nearly all abortions is a disaster waiting to happen.

Not all religions would like to ban abortions. And even within denominations that officially are against reproductive choice, there are numerous people who are pro-choice. We need more of them to speak up, especially within SD. But perhaps the majority of people in SD really do want to ban abortion. In that case, perhaps they might have a different opinion in a few years after witnessing the consequences. And it really stinks for those women who would want to make the difficult choice to terminate their pregnancies if they also live within South Dakota.

I actually suspect that it will do nothing to reduce the number of abortions among women from SD. In fact, I’m very certain of it. We know from recent studies that parental notification laws have not led to any reductions in the abortion rate among minors. In the case of women within S. Dakota, many will either find a friend or physician to illegally terminate the pregnancy, find a way to go out of state where they can have a safe, legal abortion, or else discard the fetus once it has been born at home. All of these options are bad, especially the first and last.

Dr. David Toub is a member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia chapter of ACLU-PA. Check out his blog, david’s waste of bandwidth.

9 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Dr. David Toub, M.D.

  1. What I find interesting is that the governor of South Dakota and the members that passed the ban are so open about why they did it: to make the Supreme Court hear the case. So sure are they of Bush’s influence now (with the possibility they see of perhaps a third Justice appointed by Bush), that they welcome the opportunity to show how much religion can be forced on every person in this country.

    I’ve completely stopped using the term “pro life” for these people, and exclusively use “anti-choice.”

    They just don’t care about silly things like the law, the Constitution, or civil liberties, because they know they are “right.”

    It’s sad that a small portion of the religious people in this country have done so much to turn open-minded people against them. I used to believe in live-and-let-live.

    But not now. They’ve made it a fight, and I hope enough people are ready to fight back.

  2. I also wanted to add that the implication in the quote from Bill Napoli is exactly what happened in Italy: rape is worse if the woman in a virgin.

    Of course, he’s also implied it’s worse if the woman is religious.

    I’ve heard anti-choice people argue that any woman who is raped in most cases must have “deserved it” somehow.

    It must be nice to change reality to match your beliefs. How do you even respond to someone who thinks a woman asked to be raped and should be forced to have a child by the act?

  3. The Irish Republic (Eire) is as bad or even worse than Italy, they know full well that Ulster to the north, and Britain to the west have relatively “lenient” abortion laws, so Eire has a law that makes it a criminal offence to travel abroad for the purpose of obtaining or even seeking an abortion, Eire’s own abortion laws are similar to SD’s. – The good news, test cases in front of the European Court of Human Rights may drag both of these countries kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

  4. There’s a slight wrinkle regarding the statement “We know from recent studies that parental notification laws have not led to any reductions in the abortion rate among minors”.

    A recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle, quoting an article in last Thursday’s New England Journal of Medecine, says that abortion rates declined significantly among Texas girls after the state enacted a parental notification law.

    On the positive side, it’s not that cut and dried. There’s lots of wiggle room to debate whether that’s a good or a bad thing on both sides of the issue. And the point that some girls near the age of consent are simply waiting until they’re 18 to have a riskier abortion is a very good point.

    I don’t think it impacts the dabate that much, except that opponents of abortion will use that report as leverage and one has to be more careful in denigrating parental notification laws.

    Cheers, Neil.

  5. sheikh mahandi wrote:

    “The Irish Republic (Eire) is as bad or even worse than Italy, they know full well that Ulster to the north, and Britain to the west”

    Britain is a *long* way west of Ireland…. (Reminds me of the film “Krakatoa East of Java”.)

  6. I’m sure Sheikh Mahandi will be comletely mortified at that gaffe, especially since he’s British.

    A little too much of the Haggis juice, eh?

    Cheers, Neil.

  7. I’ve completely stopped using the term “pro life” for these people, and exclusively use “anti-choice.”

    I like the term “pre-life”. They care about the baby until it’s born, and then it’s “fend for yourself, kid”. Get a job! So what if you’re 4!

  8. “Britain to the West” – Damn it, I must have been standing on my head when I came away with that one, either that or Neil is right and I was typing under the influence.

    Note to self – check an atlas before using directional information.

    Second note to self – check frequently to make sure you can still translate such simple phrases as “Tir N’an Og’ and “Die Wacht am Rhein”.

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