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ISSUE 119 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/17/2006

New bill solves nothing

By Kathryn Sederberg
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 17, 2006

“I have signed House Bill 1215 into law,” South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds announced earlier this month.

Many St. Olaf students probably do not recognize the name, but most have undoubtedly heard of the abortion debate stirred by this bill, by which South Dakota has eliminated most abortions within its borders.

Officially called the “Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act,” it is not a secret that this bill is an attempt to challenge Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that established legal grounds for abortion.

Years from now we will probably hear this issue argued in those same chambers again. The question is this: Are laws banning abortion a violation of our constitutional rights?

Overturning the 1973 decision regarding a woman’s right to abort her child will not end abortion. It will make abortion a privilege for those able to afford to attain it in other ways, and increase the number of illegal abortions. Who hasn’t seen “Dirty Dancing?”

The top two reasons commonly cited for having an abortion are not being ready for the responsibility of supporting a child and not being able to afford a baby. Young couples not ready for the responsibility of a child should not, some argue, be having sex.

But it is idealistic – perhaps even naïve – to say that all young couples should wait until marriage to have sex. Abstinence education is not the answer. Young people are having sex, and they are going to continue doing so.

But demographics show that not all women who have abortions are irresponsible. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 56 percent of women who have had an abortion are in their 20s, 57 percent are economically disadvantaged, and no racial or ethnic group makes up a majority. The abortion question is clearly one that is not exclusive to any one part of American society.

Why decide between pro-life and pro-choice? Can I not be pro-life and pro-choice? Maybe I am morally against abortion, but I still do not think the government should be the one making such an important decision. I then fall into both categories.

Do people who are vehemently pro-life listen to this argument? Or are they too concerned with making sure an extreme (not compromising) decision is made? I consider a bill banning all abortions, even in the case of rape and incest, one such dogmatic decision.

And do people who are pro-choice listen to the reasoning of pro-life arguments? Or are they too concerned with preventing this from becoming law? One compromise would be to keep abortion legal, but to work together to get out more information on ways of preventing this decision (such as birth control and sex education).

Women will always have abortions. But a realistic goal could be to lower this number every year. In Minnesota, 13,788 abortions were performed in 2004, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a pro-life group. This number represents the lowest since 1975, but it could be much lower.

I do not think the government should ban abortions. I do not think that making such a medical operation illegal is the answer to this debate. I think pro-life advocates need to work together with pro-choice advocates to lower the number of abortions performed yearly.

I will never be able to understand the situations of the hundreds of women who decide to have abortions. But I also won’t call them all “baby killers” and stigmatize their decision.

I hope that sexually active couples have responsible sex and, if they are not ready for a baby, do everything they can to prevent pregnancy. But the day that the government makes this decision for a couple is a sad day.

Contributing Writer Kathryn Sederberg is a sophomore from Duluth, Minn. She majors in CIS.

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