Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Letter to the Editor

Yesterday in the Star Tribune the editors opined the following...

An American right is under siege

Minnesota has a lot to share with its nearby states, and medical expertise is high on the list. But things have gone awry when a next-door neighbor must ship in Minnesota doctors to perform a procedure local physicians could easily undertake. That's what has happened in South Dakota, where the fight over reproductive rights has grown so heated that getting an abortion is just this side of impossible.

Hence the flying Minnesota doctors -- four of them, who take turns showing up at South Dakota's only abortion clinic to provide a service that no doctor in the state dares to offer. Never mind that the procedure is legal -- and that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared its availability a constitutional right. South Dakota's abortion foes have rendered those facts nearly irrelevant by branding as a "baby-killer" any doctor willing to perform abortions. Not surprisingly, no doctor remains willing. South Dakota has become one of the three states in the nation where getting an abortion is most difficult.

Surely Minnesotans shouldn't resent lending out a few doctors. But they ought to take real umbrage at the movement that makes the arrangement necessary. South Dakota has long been in the vanguard of the quest to fulfill by intimidation a goal lawmakers and courts have so far declined to deliver: an abortion embargo.

Not that South Dakota's Legislature hasn't been trying. Last year, a bid to ban abortion outright -- in direct defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Roe vs. Wade -- failed by a single vote. In 2005, lawmakers passed five laws restricting abortion. This year state leaders are almost certain to consider proposals that would oblige any abortion-seeker to watch an ultrasound of her fetus and to receive psychological counseling and warnings about abortion's presumed dangers before the procedure.

South Dakota's drama might be barely worth a worry but for the example it sets and the future it portends. Many states -- Minnesota included -- have passed laws forcing women to clear an obstacle course on their way to an abortion clinic. Such hindrances have worked lamentably well to make pursuit of an abortion more arduous -- though in most states, women eventually reach their destination. In South Dakota, the destination has virtually vanished; but for a few frequent-flying Minnesota doctors, the abortion choice would disappear altogether.

And it may well disappear -- not just next door, but throughout the nation. As Americans look toward a new year, a judge named Samuel Alito is preparing to persuade the U.S. Senate he's fit to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. If he succeeds, he'll tip the balance on a court that has long maintained a delicate equilibrium sustaining abortion rights.

While that would be true of any court newcomer, onlookers have special reasons to worry about President Bush's current nominee: In applying to work in the Reagan Justice Department in 1985, Alito emphasized his belief that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
Having secured the job, Alito soon thereafter spelled out his favored strategy to "advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe vs. Wade": Until the time is right for a "frontal attack" on Roe, Alito wrote, the ruling's opponents should focus on "mitigating its effects" -- by supporting just the sort of restrictions that have made abortion so hard to get in South Dakota and beyond.

Now this early strategist against Roe -- the landmark acknowledgment of a constitutional entitlement to privacy -- has a chance to join the high court. U.S. senators are gearing up even now to determine his fate -- and, whether they know it or not, the future of the nation. Therefore their hearings must delve deeply into Alito's thinking, then and now, on privacy.

I submitted a response this morning although I'm not very hopeful that it will be printed and even if it is they will no doubt leave off the last paragraph.

There was a time in our country not so long ago when it was acceptable to own slaves. Slaves weren't citizens deserving of basic rights. People could decide for themselves if they wanted to exercise their right to own a could say it was a choice. If you didn't believe it was okay to treat another human being this way you didn't have to. The Supreme Court (Dred Scott vs Sanford 1857) at the time supported slave owners rights to continue the practice.

I look at the abortion issue today and the divisiveness which surrounds it and see many parallels to the slavery issue which divided our country. The Supreme Court was wrong then and it's wrong now.

To the editors of the Star Tribune, please tell me what part of a personal belief in the sanctity of life you find threatening and explain to me how abortion has any place in our society. Please go one step further and speak of the merits of partial birth abortion. Enlighten me if you will.

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