Why are Doctor's Lying?

October 31, 2006

South Dakota allies Barbara Chapman and Karen Miller, in an op ed featured in the Rapid City Journal challenge the lies some doctors are telling about the new law that would ban virtually all South Dakota women from legal abortion services.

Why are doctors lying?
By Barbara Chapman and Karen Miller, mental health professionals in Rapid City. They authored a rebuttal to the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion's report that is available at www.sdakgrandmothersspeak.blogspot.com/.

If, as they claim, supporters of Referred Law 6 care about women, why are they lying to them? In an ad sponsored by VoteYesForLife, a group of doctors go beyond stating their support for South Dakota's law banning virtually all women from making their own decisions regarding abortion: they bend the truth to fit their agenda.

Dr. Mark Rector of Sioux Falls, for example, states: "This measure does provide exception for the life and the health of the mother."

Why is Dr. Rector lying to women? As a medical professional, he knows that there is nothing in the abortion ban that allows for an exception to protect the health of a pregnant woman. In fact, the South Dakota Legislature was given an opportunity to add an amendment to the ban that would have allowed for a health exception, and they deliberately voted against it.

So there is no exception for the woman's health in South Dakota. While the ban does have an exception for the "life" of the mother, the term "life" is so vague that it is unclear how close to immediate death a woman would have to be in order to be able to have an abortion. Does she have to prove she will die tomorrow? Is a diagnosis of uterine cancer enough? Or because it won't kill her immediately, will she be denied treatment and forced to go to term while the deadly cancer is spreading?

Think this can't happen? Just ask Michelle Lee, a Louisiana woman denied a Medicaid-funded abortion by Louisiana State University Medical Center. In spite of her life-threatening heart condition that was getting worse, doctors at that facility denied her request for a Medicaid-funded abortion after deciding that her risk of death was not greater than 50 percent if she carried the pregnancy to term.

The women of South Dakota will be next in line for this kind of treatment unless people vote No on Referred Law 6.

The doctors in the ad are entitled to their opinion that "Referred Law 6 is a caring approach to protecting women." But it's hard to imagine how a law that deprives women of their right to make health care decisions on behalf of themselves and their families "protects" them.

History tells us that in every society that attempts to ban abortions, women - desperate to take responsibility for their lives, their health and the children they already have - will attempt to get abortions in any way they can, often with tragic results.

In our country, in the period before Roe vs. Wade, thousands of women died each year. And hundreds of thousands more were injured either by their own attempts at self-abortion or in the hands of unskilled illegal providers of abortions. In other words, criminalizing abortion does not stop abortions - it just deprives women, a majority of whom are already mothers, from accessing safe abortion services.

That is why a majority of South Dakota's doctors oppose the ban and why the state's section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are urging voters to vote No on 6. These physicians know that there is no exception for the health of the mother; they also know there is no exception in the law for women who have been raped. Permitting women to use contraception is not the same as allowing them to decide whether or not they need to end a pregnancy that resulted from violence.

We believe that people who truly value pregnant women, mothers and families don't lie to them - which is precisely what supporters of the abortion ban are doing when they distort the facts about exceptions and the protection of mothers. We believe that government has no business intruding into personal decisions or the practice of medicine. And we trust women to make good health care decisions on behalf of themselves and their families.