Aug 23 2010
New abortion law outrages those whom it should please most
For decades, abortion-rights advocates have trumpeted “safe, legal and rare” as their goal for abortions. If that is the case, they should be overjoyed by the bill Gov. Mark Sanford signed Wednesday in Spartanburg.
The new regulations require that women be given the option of looking at an ultrasound of their fetus before they have an abortion, but does not require them to look at the ultrasound. It also increases the required waiting time for abortions from one hour to 24 hours.
It does not impact the safety of abortions. It does not impact the legality of abortions. It could potentially impact the rarity of abortions.
Even if abortion is viewed as merely a serious elective medical procedure and not the taking of a life, the 24-hour wait makes sense. No ethical doctor would perform any significant medical procedure the same day a patient first came in the door unless that patient’s life were in danger.
You cannot simply walk off the street into the office of an ethical doctor and get a nose job or a breast reduction that same day. An ethical doctor will give you the information, both in his office and to take home, and the time necessary to make sure your decision is appropriate.
Surely an abortion deserves just as much consideration.
You cannot get married in South Carolina on the same day you apply for a wedding license. You cannot get divorced in South Carolina, in most cases, without living apart from your spouse a full year to be sure it is the right move.
That does not mean the state is anti-marriage, nor does it mean the state is anti-divorce. It simply means there are actions in South Carolina deemed momentous enough to require significant, informed reflection.
And unlike abortion, neither divorce nor marriage are permanent. Both can be reversed.
Opponents of the 24-hour wait have said the period of enforced reflection is unnecessary because women already give abortion much thought before seeking the procedure. This is probably true in many cases, but for other women, seeking an abortion may be an impulsive choice, born of fear. Given information about the process itself and other options, like putting a child up for adoption, her troubled mind may slow to consider them, and she may someday be glad she had those 24 hours to think.
Being given the option to look at an ultrasound is another form of information women may choose to consider.
With such laws, we must look at the stakes. The downside of the law is that a woman has to wait 24 hours for an abortion. The downside of not passing it is that a woman may abort a child she would have, upon reflection, chosen not to abort.
The law makes sense.
That doesn’t mean abortion-rights activists have to support it. They can oppose it, as long as they are willing to admit “safe, legal and rare” is a disingenuous slogan and come up with something new.