Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Unreal Reality of South Dakota

When it comes to South Dakota politicians and assorted forced-pregnancy zealots, does reality stand a chance? Based on the available evidence (heh, I said evidence), it appears the answer is a resounding No!

South Dakota State Senator Bill Napoli, writing about HB1215 (the state's ban on allowing women to make their own medical decisions), in an attempt to manipulate and deceive voters, asserts that (via feministing):

Elections should be about the truth. The debate about HB1215 may not be full of lies, but there's a lot of mistruths and deception.

HB1215 is a law that can be changed during any legislative session. If the debate were really about rape and incest, why aren't we talking about changing it in the next Legislature? Change it to something that works for all?

Defeat of HB1215 is not about exceptions, it's about unlimited abortions. If you vote to repeal HB1215, you're actually voting for abortion on demand, abortion as a means of birth control, and abortion for convenience.

...

The truth! Repealing HB1215 is for wide-open abortions, not just rape and incest exceptions.

If you love babies, and see those cute little babies in the park, grocery store, mall, or cafe, think very carefully about your vote to repeal HB1215.


[There's a reason I tell you people that anytime a politician speaks you should flinch on principle.]

As Ann so aptly notes:

So, voters of South Dakota, if you're concerned about the lack of rape, incest and health exceptions, just quit worrying and vote in favor of the ban, anyway! Then trust your awesome state legislators like Napoli to rewrite the law to protect only sodomized virgins.


The zealots members of the odious SD Task Force to Study Abortions claim that (analysis via Scott Lemieux; a must read) women would never freely choose an abortion -- even absent outside pressures -- because doing so would violate "the mother’s fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child."

All these fantastic assertions are being used as the basis for legislating the very real health and lives of South Dakota women and their families. It behooves, at a minimum, us bloggers and blog readers to look at, and familiarize ourselves with, the facts about abortion in South Dakota. And while we're at it, let's also fact-check Sen. Napoli's main claims that: 1) defeat of HB1215 is not about exceptions, it's about wide-open(?) abortions, and 2) it's for the babies.

In 2004 (most recent data available) there were 814 total induced abortions in SD. Of these, 82% (670) were performed on SD residents (vs. 680 in 2003). Looking at induced abortions by EGA, we notice that the number of abortions in SD has been steadily decreasing, at least* over the past 4 years:

-867 in 2000

-895 in 2001

-824 in 2002

-819 in 2003 [total abortions]

-814 in 2004 [total abortions]

*(Failure to add to total abortions as a result of not stated.)

Sen. Napoli claims that (emphasis mine):

Defeat of HB1215 is not about exceptions, it's about unlimited abortions. If you vote to repeal HB1215, you're actually voting for abortion on demand, abortion as a means of birth control, and abortion for convenience.


Since wide-open, unlimited, and on demand abortions are propaganda terms, they're not amenable to a factual analysis. So we're left with abortion as a means of birth control, and abortion for convenience.

Sen. Napoli asserts that, if voters allow the women of SD to make their own medical decisions when it comes to pregnancy termination they are actually voting for...abortion as a means of birth control.

The South Dakota Department of Health, Office of Data, Statistics, and Vital Records (.pdf) report contains no data on birth control use in women obtaining an abortion in SD (a glaring omission, in my opinion). Unless Sen. Napoli is privy to information not available to the South Dakota Department of Health, Office of Data, Statistics, and Vital Records, his statement to the voters of SD that they are actually voting for...abortion as a means of birth control is a lie mistruth.

An aside. The official statistics do contain some data--percentage of patients reporting that they had no previous spontaneous/induced abortion--that might shed some light on birth control use in women having an abortion in SD. [Since we're going to look at the available evidence and make some assumptions, the best we can do is come up with an informed guess.]

From the report, we note that the majority of patients--86.1%/75.9%--reported that they had no previous spontaneous/induced abortions. Now, assuming that these patients were sexually active, and that the reason they had no history of abortion is because they either 1) didn't become pregnant because they were using birth control, or 2) did become pregnant (planned or unplanned) and decided to continue the pregnancy, there is no evidence that women in South Dakota are using abortion as a form of birth control.

If Sen. Napoli has any data to the contrary, I invite him to present his evidence and defend his claim. I will be happy to provide the forum, and will publish his defense in full.

Moving on, let's look at the abortion for convenience claim. While Sen. Napoli fails to define "convenience" in this context, we mustn't be that sloppy. We must show [more] consideration for the voters of SD. We are, after all, discussing a matter that will significantly impact their health and lives. Precision and accuracy are essential. So, let's state that obtaining an abortion for the following indications does not constitute "convenience": fetal abnormality, rape or incest, mother can not afford the child, mother’s emotional health is at risk, and mother would suffer substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if the pregnancy continued.

Looking at the data we see that, of the women who gave at least one reason**, 584 (46.5%) did not have an abortion for convenience. Here's the breakdown, if you're interested:

-- known fetal abnormality 16.....2%
-- pregnancy was a result of rape or incest 23.....1.8%
-- mother could not afford the child 397.....31.1%
-- mother’s emotional health was at risk 119.....9.3%
-- mother would suffer substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if the pregnancy continued 29.....2.3%

Of note, 576 (45.1%) patients who obtained an abortion stated that they did so because they did not desire to have the child. Unfortunately, no further breakdown--not ready for a(nother) child; childbearing completed; responsibilities to other dependents--is available, so we're unable to refine our analysis. [Had more detailed information been available, it would've been instructive to compare the reasons given by South Dakota women to those of women form a nationwide sample (.pdf).]

**[Refused to answer 5 (0.4%), and Other 127 (10.0%). Note that [t]he total responses are greater than the number of abortions performed because the patient was allowed to give more than one response.]

Returning for a moment to one of the claims mentioned in Scott Lemieux's post, from that paragon of reality that is the SD Task Force to Study Abortions, that women would never freely choose an abortion -- even absent outside pressures -- because doing so would violate "the mother’s fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child.", I have to point out (just) one small problem. The majority of women who had a termination in SD in 2004, or 57.6%, reported having 1-n living children. Not only were these women freely choosing to have an abortion, it appears they were doing so precisely because of a mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child. An actual child that is.

[Okay, I have to ask: If a woman has a fundamental natural intrinsic (however one's fancy might strike him/her to define these terms in this context) right to a relationship with products of conception (POC), does that mean that she has a super-duper, extra, mostest fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with an existing child?]

Moving on, what about all them cute little babies in the park, grocery store, mall, or cafe Sen. Napoli urges us to pay attention to? [Far be it from me to give parenting advice to strangers, but what's with all those babies populating SD's cafes? Less caffeine, more milk for the kiddies, I say.] Since Sen. Napoli wants us to think of Teh Babies, let's.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, Office of Data, Statistics, and Vital Records the number of low birth weight babies (less than 2,500 g) has been on the rise: 787 in 2004 vs. 734 in 2003. [Unfortunately, this is a national trend--[t]he low birthweight rate rose to 8.1 percent in 2004 from 7.9 percent in 2003.]

From the CDC:

Both low birthweight and preterm delivery [before 37 completed weeks] make infants more susceptible to a wide range of health problems. Mortality rates are nearly 25 times higher for low birthweight infants compared with those of normal weight. For the smallest infants the risk is 100-fold.


See, that's the problem with demagoguery using POC and infants interchangeably, in an attempt to deceive and manipulate your constituents. Actual cute little babies have actual real-life problems.

Last, but not least, I was going to comment on the required "informed" consent data contained in the SD vital statistics report because of this recommendation from the odious SD Task Force (emphasis mine):

The 72-page draft report calls for a ban on abortion by overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the practice. In the meantime, it recommends that South Dakota should put further restrictions on abortion, such as requiring that women get additional information and counseling before having abortions.


Unfortunately, in order to be thorough and familiarize myself with the old counseling requirements (South Dakota Codified Law 34-23A-10) I had to read HB 1166. HB 1166 deserves a separate post, so I'll continue the discussion there. In the meantime, I encourage you to go and read the bill. No reason why I should be the only one with exploding neurons.

1 Comments:

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't govenment stay out of our personal lives. Great Blog

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home