Herewith a suggestion on how to improve the South Dakota Fairy Tale that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has approved for reading to women before they undergo abortions. The case was Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, et al vs. Mike Rounds, et al. It pertained to a piece of legislation passed by the South Dakota legislature, a mostly male body that has, until now, unsuccessfully tried to tell women what they may and may not do with their bodies. Thanks to the Court it has finally succeeded.
The essence of the case was that although women may continue to get abortions in South Dakota, the physician performing the procedure is required to read aloud to the prospective mother. Under section 7 of the statute a woman is required to receive oral disclosures about the procedure she is about to undergo. Some of the information must be given orally AND in writing and other information only in writing although the language of the statute can be read to require that all information must be imparted orally by the physician.
Although the prescribed reading (and writing) is not the sort of thing the mother would read aloud to the child were the child to be born, it has a certain fairy tale like quality to it. Among the things the physician is required to tell the mother is that an abortion will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” that the woman has an “existing relationship with that unborn human being, ” that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States constitution and under laws of South Dakota” and that “by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated.”
It is patently absurd to describe the embryo has a “whole” and a “separate” human being since whatever else it may be, it is neither whole, having many months to go before it achieves that state, nor is it “separate” since ordinarily it cannot survive outside the mother’s body at the time the abortion is performed. It is equally absurd to say that the “relationship” “enjoys protection under the United States Constitution” since it does not.
Sarah Stoesz, president of the regional Planned Parenthood office, said the statute represents an “unprecedented interference in the doctor-patient relationship and unprecedented interference in a woman’s life.” She also observed that the law is “non-science” based but as we have been taught by none other than the president of the United States and his minions, science is an elective subject whose proofs one may accept or reject based on one’s personal biases. And speaking of science, we are brought to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent pronouncement that if added to the South Dakota statute, will bring the number of abortions performed in South Dakota to zero.
The E.P.A. issued a report on July 19, 2008 that pertained to a matter with which few people knew the E.P.A. was concerned. The report said the value of a human life has gone down from $8.04 million to $7.22 million. That does not mean, as the report is careful to point out, that every reader of this column is worth that. Some will be worth more and others less and most readers know to which group they belong.
The reason it is important to know the value of a human life is that when you have the answer to that question you can decide whether certain governmental actions are worthwhile. If something is proposed that a governmental agency determines will save 50 lives and cost $500 million, the agency determines if the proposal makes sense by multiplying 50 lives times $7.22 million. If the product is less than $500 million, the project is abandoned and if more, it may be implemented. If, in that example, 200 people were affected, then the math would justify the cost.
Now that this information is available, the South Dakota legislature should promptly amend House Bill 1166 to include a requirement that the fairy tale be refined to add a section that will inform the woman that not only is she “terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” but she is also disposing of an asset that has a scientifically established value of $7.22 million. Armed with that scientifically correct information most women will immediately spring for the cash and abortions in South Dakota will come to an end. There will, of course, be a modicum of disappointment when the kid hits college age and the parent goes looking for the $7.22 million the parent knows was being stowed away. Parents will find, to their dismay, that the $7.22 million was, like much of the rest of the language in the South Dakota Fairy Tale, made up by ignorant busy bodies more interested in controlling women’s bodies than in educating their proprietors.
CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.firstname.lastname@example.org