Red state women speak: How abortion restrictions affect them, their daughters
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Thursday March 16, 2006
With South Dakota having passed legislation banning
abortion that provides saving the life of the mother
as the only exception, and at least 10 other states
considering legislation seeking to ban abortion or limit abortion
access, many progressives are beginning to consider a
challenge to Roe v. Wade inevitable. While some feel
secure in the notion that Roe will be upheld, others worry
that abortion rights will be slowly chipped away by state
restrictions until Roe is rendered effectively impotent.
At least one feminist blogger has already made available
information on performing abortions in anticipation of the
procedure being criminalized.
Pro-choice women in red states are particularly concerned—
some for their own futures, and some for the futures of
their daughters. These are their thoughts on the future,
as told to RAW STORY.
Mandy, South Dakota
Mandy is a 23-year-old college student in Vermillion, SD,
and president of the student group U.Vox Voices for Choice,
which launched e-campaigns to their representatives and
organized a letter-writing campaign in opposition to
HB 1215. Approximately 80 hand-written letters to members
of the Senate were sent from U.Vox Voices for Choice;
nearly 100 more were gathered by their sister group at
Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
Five members of their group also attended the South Dakota
Advocacy Network for Women's "Women 4 Women event in early
February, where women and men from around the state
traveled to Pierre to meet with legislatures and lobby for
women's issues such as sex education, violence against
women, equal opportunity, and reproductive rights."
The group organized a roadside visibility campaign, and
some members attended a Planned Parenthood rally in Sioux
Falls, observing a "National Day of Solidarity for South
Dakota." Hundreds of people turned up for the event, at
which Mandy spoke.
In the end, the legislation passed in spite of their
"I'm ashamed that both the South Dakota Legislature and
Governor Mike Rounds value politics more than the health
and well-being of the citizens of this state," Mandy said.
"I'm also saddened that our legislators seem to act more so
on their own ideals than serving as fair and neutral
representation for the people of South Dakota. It is
outrageous that the abortion ban sailed through the
legislature and the office of Gov. Rounds without any
exceptions for victims of rape or incest. HB 1215 is
disrespectful of victims of an already abominable crime.
The passing of this bill will do nothing to help our
state's problems, so with that, I'm entirely disappointed
and very concerned about the future of this state."
Mandy is concerned that her state "is heading down a very
dark road," one that will result in failing not only South
Dakotan women, but whole families. "One of the primary
reasons that women of our state seek abortion services is
financially based," Mandy said. "If these women are forced
to bear more children than they can afford, the
repercussions will be very dangerous. I have deep and grave
concerns for the instances of child abuse in this state
seeing a staggering incline."
Mandy fears that Roe will be challenged, but hopes that
voices of reason will prevail—and she has no intention of
conceding the fight.
"We are brewing some fantastic ideas that are still in
early phases of planning. We are by no means lessening our
efforts. We will continue our activism with vigor and
intensity. The fight has just begun."
Deborah is a 45-year-old mother of three who lives is St.
Petersburg, Florida. She believes that Roe will be
challenged, but that it will not be overturned, fearing
instead that the spate of state legislation being
considered will incrementally render Roe useless in
protecting the rights of women, particular women in
"I fear the laws will result in abortion being more and
more difficult to obtain for women of little means,"
Deborah said. "Young women, poor women, women who cannot
take time off from their jobs to travel across county
lines, much less state lines—they're the ones who will be
affected. Women of means will simply drive or fly to a
state that does offer abortion services; they can afford
the travel, they can afford the hotel room, they can take
time off work—if they work at all. Daughters of the
wealthy will never have to give birth to rapist's children
or accidental babies. You can count on that."
She has turned her concern about parental notification laws
in Florida, and similar—or even more restrictive—state laws
being passed or considered nationwide, into activism,
writing "to everyone," signing petitions, and donating
money to pro-choice organizations, as has her mother, "who
is both a pro-choice and naturalized American citizen and a
registered Republican." And, she has just started her own
blog—a place where she hopes to reach a new generation of
"I had a discussion with a friend who is a couple of years
my senior. We agreed that far too many young girls today
are contemptuous of feminism," Deborah said. "They don't
like the whole concept of it, they say. Clearly, they
don't get it.
"They have no idea how hard their mothers, grandmothers,
and great-grandmothers fought so they could vote, so they
could have control of their own bodies. They take their
freedoms for granted while sneering at what they deem
undesirable, or butch, for some reason. They equate being
a feminist with being unfeminine (whatever "feminine"
means), or with hating men.
"It's a very sneaky fallacy and I have no idea how it
gained such foothold, other than the laziness that is part
of human nature. Nonetheless, it's appalling. Make that
Rachel, 36, lives in a small town in Indiana—a state which
received an F from NARAL last year. This year, two
abortion-related bills passed Indiana's House: House Bill
1172 would require abortion providers to tell women that
life begins at conception and to offer anesthesia for the
fetus; House Bill 1080 would require the closure of
abortion clinics that failed to meet rigid building
standards. The Indiana Senate made changes to both bills,
and final versions are still being negotiated between the
two chambers. Next year, the Indiana General Assembly
plans to vote on a bill which would ban abortion in the
Rachel believes that Roe is already being challenged with
measures such as the recently passed abortion ban in South
Dakota and fears that it may be overturned.
"I'm afraid it's a real possibility," said Rachel. The
general public is too ignorant of the implications, both in
terms of human rights and in terms of the practical
outcomes—more illegal abortions, more unwanted children—and
politicians have proven too willing to treat abortion as a
campaign slogan rather than something affecting real
people. I can't see the Democrats standing up for a
woman's human rights—and the Republicans are actively
In a state where so few legislators are pro-choice, Rachel
feels she has little recourse about the changes being
proposed in her state, and the possibility of future
restrictions on choice is beginning to take its toll.
"I'm concerned hat people are going to suffer while all of
this shakes out," Rachel said. "I know that I'm feeling a
lot more stressed. It's scary thinking that my rights—and
my life!—are so vulnerable to whim and chance.
"I keep thinking that I'm having a nightmare and wondering
when I'm going to wake up," she continued. "It's bad
enough that there are people in this country who think I'm
less than equal to men; it's beyond frightening that there
are people with the power—and the will—to impose those
beliefs on all of us, and to do so without any regret about
the terrible implications for women, children, and human
rights. These people don't do this reluctantly; they do so
proudly and eagerly and they have no compunctions about
using their power in these ways—and it seems like no one
with power is standing up to them. It is profoundly
discouraging, and I become depressed if I think about it
Kathy, 46, resides in Birmingham, Alabama, where a bill has
been introduced in the Senate which would ban all abortions
except in the "extreme" case of danger to the mother's life
and find "any person" causing or participating in an
abortion guilty of a Class B felony. Kathy finds herself
concerned on behalf of her three daughters, "who have to
live in Bush's America."
"I see the impetus for most of these laws as either
political payback to religious conservatives or deep-seated
contempt for women—or both," Kathy said. "Banning abortion
certainly won't stop it, but girls and women will start
dying again. The inherent lack of concern and lack of
respect for women does not bode well for the future of my
Kathy's frustration with the current attack on abortion
rights is coupled with what she sees as a selective
interest in protecting life.
"I also have big problems with the hypocrisy of those who
oppose abortion under any circumstances but also oppose
comprehensive sex education, use of contraceptives, and
provision of funding to ensure that all pregnant women have
access to good prenatal care and that all children have
food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. They
seem more interested in punishing women for having sex than
they are in 'saving the unborn.'
"I'd love to see abortion become safe, legal, and rare, to
quote Bill Clinton," she continued, "but our government
will have to pull its collective head out of the sand
first. If we're going to reduce unintended pregnancy, then
we need to provide our children with accurate information
about sex and encourage development of safer and more
"But there's also a bigger issue. Teenagers who are
involved in making their own futures, who have goals and
dreams and believe they can achieve them, are much less
likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone else. In our
society, with the growing gap between the wealthiest and
everyone else, average kids can't dream those dreams the
way I did. We have to change the direction of this
country; we need leaders who represent all of us, not just
those who make fat campaign contributions. We need leaders
who do more than talk about taking care of children. And
we need leaders who won't exploit religion to get votes.
"Hey, I can dream, can't I?"