by Alex McCabe | COUNTERPOINT: Abortion needs to remain legal.
This election day, South Dakota has a referendum on the ballot that, if passed, would give the state the most restrictive and ridiculous laws towards abortion in the country. The referendum effectively makes it illegal for anyone to help a woman abort a baby at any stage of a pregnancy, with the only exception being to save the mother’s life. The new laws are a horrible idea as they make no exceptions for incest, rape, or the status of the mother. They would set a bad precedent and will cause more harm to society than it would alleviate.
Not allowing the abortion of a pregnancy spawned by incest is entirely ludicrous. This law is popular across the country because a baby born from incest is significantly more likely to have birth defects and mental and physical issues than a normal baby. Furthermore, the mother of a baby born of incest is likely to be ostracized by community and family and suffer irreparable psychological damage. In such a circumstance, abortion should be allowed.
Banning the abortion of pregnancy caused by rape is similarly inadvisable. Rape is more often than not due to no fault of the woman, but a criminal assault and a violation of her rights as a human being. Being forced to birth a child that is a product of rape is likely to do psychological damage to both the mother and the baby, who is more likely to be held in contempt by its own mother and grow up without a father.
Abortion needs to happen so that women do not have to have their lives ruined due to a single mistake. Pregnancy can cause huge amounts of trauma and harm to a woman’s body that are not necessarily life threatening. A woman who does not feel that she is ready to go through this should not have it forced upon her. This is another reason why simply putting all of these children up for abortion will also have detrimental effects. Similarly, pregnancies can happen in women who are in college and high school, times in their lives when they are trying to educate themselves and very often simply cannot deal with the stresses of pregnancy and motherhood and the psychological harm it is likely to cause at that point in their lives. Forcing a woman to have a baby in this situation is just cruel because the child will probably be deprived of the amounts of care that it needs to develop into a healthy and well-adjusted adult.
There are other problems that this law is likely to cause. The wording of the referendum, by banning the assistance of abortion, merely encourages the pregnant women to try abortions on their own or to find underground channels by which to have an abortion done. Even if they do not take measures this drastic, it will still mean finding an abortion clinic or willing hospital outside the state, dropping hospital revenues for South Dakota and encouraging residents to leave. It will make life harder for the women that advocates of this law claim to be protecting. Another point to consider is that this law, if passed, will likely be overturned by the Supreme Court swiftly, as it is a violation of Roe v. Wade.
The means by which the campaign for this referendum has been conducted does not matter due to the danger of the ends. Their campaign is based around the fact that abortion is harmful to the mother, and encourages women to feel they are not at fault. But their arguments are flawed because being forced into pregnancy when abortion can be done early is far more dangerous than actually having the abortion done. Likewise, forcing women to have abortions done by doctors far from home, or by underground, untrained medical workers also possess great risks.
Today abortion happens far too often in this country. Far too many take it as a light decision, far too many see it as a method of contraception, and far too many are ignorant of the health risks and harm it does to the mother. But the way to change this situation is not by banning the medical practice that makes it possible. We should be educating our children, teens and adults about safe sex, rape prevention, and the uses of contraception, and making contraceptive devices more assessable so unwanted pregnancies do not happen. All that this law would do if allowed to exist by the Supreme Court is make South Dakota a less desirable place to live, victimize pregnant women, and burden the law enforcement officials of that state with the mandate to enforce this ridiculous law.
Mr. McCabe is a junior majoring in International Relations and Economics.