If we’re still talking about abortion, here’s a dispatch from my current heartland location, where “Abortion Kills a Beating Heart” and “It’s a Child Not a Choice” billboards herald your arrival to a lot of little towns.
The South Dakota legislature has at least one anti-abortion bill on their to-do list every year. This year, they had two. One required that women wanting an abortion sign a 13 page document prepared by the Department of Health, and initial every page. This one was simple fuckery – the single Planned Parenthood location that provides abortions had its own consent form, but apparently it wasn’t enough of a waste of time and paper. That bill passed and is now law. The other bill was an attempt to force women to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion, and also to hear the fetal heartbeat. This one failed because the anti-abortion lobby thought it was unconstitutional.
The reason that the anti-abortion advocates here are sensitive to whether a law is constitutional, no matter whether the Supremes are now wired to overturn Roe, is because they played with fire and got burned in the last decade. A law prohibiting abortion was overturned by a referendum (with a healthy 56-44 majority) in 2006. One of the arguments in that referendum was that litigating Supreme Court challenges is an expensive waste of time. (Another was that this bill didn’t have the exceptions for rape and incest – only the life of the mother.) Since then, legislators have pretty much stuck to throwing as much sand in the gears of what little abortion machinery is left in the state, without causing a court challenge.
Even in this red state, a good majority of people are not ready to overturn abortion. People will vote for legislators who want to overturn it, because of party affiliation, but those legislators are handcuffed by popular opinion, at least in this state.
The lesson I take home from this little bit of politics is that, at some point, even in the fucked up political environment that we’re experiencing today, popular opinion matters.