February 23, 2006

South Dakota Leads the Nation

by PG

I point out for the benefit of those who say, "Oh, we don't need Roe, no state would actually ban abortion nowadays" this South Dakota bill:

The proposed legislation, which states that "life begins at the time of conception," would prohibit abortion except in cases where the pregnant woman's life was at risk. Felony charges could be placed against doctors, but not against those seeking abortions, the measure says.
This surprises me not at all; a similar scheme of making the physician but not the patient a criminal is in much anti-abortion legislation, including the federal ban on dilation and extraction set to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. What I am wondering is whether there are parallels in any other criminal statute dealing with transactions between consenting and knowing adults, in which the provider is charged but never the buyer. Not drugs, sex, obscene materials, materials from endangered animals... anyone know of such a law? Obviously this is part of the "We love women, just not those evil abortionists to whom the unfortunate women go" attitude among the opponents of legal abortion, which probably is sincere among most of them and good politics for the remainder. Unwillingly pregnant women, particularly survivors of rape and incest, are a little too sympathetic to advocate throwing in prison -- much better to put them in the role of minors or other people who can't be held to have known what they were doing.

February 23, 2006 12:26 AM | TrackBack

Can a borrower be charged with usury?

Posted by: Tom T. at February 23, 2006 07:16 AM

Who thinks we even need the states? If Roe were overturned, there would be a "Federal Right to Life Act" introduced in both chambers of Congress within 24 hours.

Posted by: KipEsquire at February 23, 2006 10:02 AM

Tom T.,

Good point, though the degree to which those borrowing from usurers are voluntary depends on one's socioeconomic views. Along those lines, people who agree to work for less than minimum wage (assuming they are not undocumented workers) also are not charged with a crime. But I don't think of that as a buying transaction precisely, though it obviously is commerce.


No, this is federalism; we probably can't get a national majority to ban abortion, particularly as stringently as SD will be (no exception for rape/ incest is an extreme position even among conservatives), but individual states can and will.

Posted by: PG at February 23, 2006 02:25 PM

I didn't mean to be snarky; I honestly wasn't sure if the non-prosecution of the borrower was a matter of statute or just prosecutorial discretion.

Also, it seems to me that the economic-duress argument could be applied, in some form, to SD's abortion law: the idea being that the legislature recognizes that economic hardship and other difficult circumstances can drive a woman to seek an abortion. While they still want the conduct to be forbidden, they're sufficiently respectful of that duress to decide that the party more driven by desperation should not be punished. Of course, I don't know whether that's actually what they were thinking; I'm just proposing it as a possibility.

Posted by: Tom T. at February 24, 2006 09:07 AM

Tom T.,
I didn't think you were being snarky. The way usury actually works as a general rule is that no one is prosecuted for the loan itself, but the usurer is precluded from pushing to get the usurious level of money. All loan-sharking -- in the sense of inappropriate pressure on borrowers to repay loans -- is illegal even when the interest rate was within the state's limit, but legitimate loans can be enforced through lawsuit, whereas usurious loans cannot. This is quite different from the relationship between the abortionist and the unwillingly pregnant woman, however, inasmuch as the borrower would prefer a lower-rate loan (or the employee a higher wage), whereas the only thing the abortionist can do for women, realistically, is to offer or not offer an abortion. Some employment and loans will not exist if we have minimum wage and maximum interest, but this is a question of degree and one much-debated among economists and political scientists at that.

There's a significant number of feminists who see abortion rights as situational, so that come the revolution, abortion no longer will be necessary because all women will have the economic wherewithal to support their offspring, whether by their own labor, government support, etc. However, these feminists continue to support reproductive choice in the absence of such a guarantee of economic autonomy.

I don't fall in this group because I think there is a fundamental need not to be forced to carry a fetus if one doesn't wish to do so. I am, however, OK with people's having biological offspring that they didn't want. For example, a woman who created embryos through IVF shouldn't be able to keep someone who wants to bear and raise those children from doing so. But I also have a freakish disregard for the alleged importance of biology (and of property, if you follow that line of property law regarding biological materials).

Many women might be able to afford pregnancy in a monetary sense, but may not be able to afford it physically -- consider the situation of women who need medication that would cause birth defects if they took it during pregnancy. This often is characterized as merely "inconvenient," but that strikes me as a disrespectful view of the value of women's well-being.

Posted by: PG at February 24, 2006 04:54 PM
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