As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Well, Here We Go

I see the Alito court was very prompt in wading into the culture wars again:

The Supreme Court wasted little time jumping back into the contentious abortion issue, agreeing Tuesday to review the constitutionality of a federal law banning a controversial late-term procedure critics call "partial birth" abortion.

The case could provide a judicial sea change with new Justice Samuel Alito, who joined the high court January 31, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor.

O'Connor, the first woman on the high court, was a key swing vote for a quarter century, upholding the basic right to abortion.

The views of Alito, a more conservative jurist, could prove crucial in the new debate.

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency.

The Court could have very easily said, "Look, we already ruled on this when Nebraska tried to enact the same law 6 years ago, sorry, run along," but of course the players on the stage have changed since then. I do think it's clever to write a law that's already been struck down, and then, should the Court strike that one down too, proclaim it the work of "activist judges." Making a decision and holding to it does not make you activist. If the Court decided that some Congressional law banning newspapers was unconstitutional, they wouldn't be "activist." They'd be following the law.

But of course, this law will likely be upheld, beginning the long process of chipping away at reproductive rights. The legislative apparatus of the conservative movement has proved that they're ready to send this stuff up the legal food chain, starting in South Dakota:

South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.

"My understanding is we are the first state to truly defy Roe v. Wade," the 1973 high court ruling that granted a constitutional right to abortion, said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood's South Dakota chapter.

State legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky also have introduced similar measures this year, but South Dakota's legislative calendar means its law is likely to be enacted first.

So get ready for several more years of heartache and yelling on all sides. Meanwhile there already is a de facto abortion ban in South Dakota already; there's one provider in the state, and its doctors have to be flown in from Minnesota because physicians there are routinely intimidated into denying the procedure.

Digby is really good on this issue today. If those in the "pro-life" movement were committed to saving the unborn they wouldn't be for the procedure in cases of rape or incest. All children are innocent means ALL. Right? And then this:

They seem to think that sex isn't a primary biological imperative --- meaning that succumbing to the most primitive urge we have is an act which should be punished if it results in what nature intends --- pregnancy. It is not a function of bad character. It’s a function of nature. There seem to be few people who are willing to admit that the sex drive is stronger than most people’s willpower from time to time --- and therefore unwanted pregnancy will also happen from time to time.

We could take a fair amount of chance out of this equation by simply promoting the use and availability of birth control. The more available and easy it is to obtain the less likely unwanted pregnancy will happen. We could at least educate young people and make it easy for them to get reliable birth control. If pro-lifers really cared about not killing “innocent life” they would have condom machines in school alongside the cokes and candy bars. There is no group of people on earth who are more horny, more impulsive and more likely to think there is no tomorrow than teen-agers. Yet this is the group that the pro-life people most want to punish with early pregnancy if they fail to beat back their natural urges.

But let’s face it. Even if everyone had birth control, unwanted pregnancies would still happen. Nothing is foolproof. As the Republicans remind us incessantly, the only foolproof way to ensure there is no unwanted preganancy is abstinence. That's the real message of the "pro-life" movement. If women don't want to endure forced childbirth they shouldn't have sex. Period.

The issue is control. Control and punishment.

(a certain reader of this blog will be coming after me in the comments forthwith)