Monday, January 23, 2006

ABORTION: A NEW "MASON-DIXON" LINE?

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This is interesting:
In the next six weeks, South Dakota lawmakers will decide whether to make abortion a crime.

A bill that would ban abortion in the state will be introduced within the next two days.

The bill will be called the Woman's Health and Life Protection Act. It will ban abortion, but won't prosecute a doctor who performs one to save a woman's life.

And the lawmaker who's introducing the bill says he thinks now is the right time to try and over-turn Roe vs Wade.

Rep. Roger Hunt says, "Abortion should be banned."

Those four words will likely lead to many others in the South Dakota House and Senate as lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize abortion in the state. The bill's supporters are using findings from a controversial abortion task force report recently given to the legislature.

Hunt says, "DNA testing now can establish the unborn child has a separate and distinct personality from the mother. We know a lot more about post-abortion harm to the mother."
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Sunday, Hunt and other anti-abortion advocates held an event promoting their legislation. They say now is the time to pass it, because other states are considering similar bills and because with new Chief Justice John Roberts, and possibly Samuel Alito, the US Supreme Court is changing.

Hunt says, "Two very solid, we feel, pro-life candidates. Again you never know but based on their testimony to the senate we feel they're good candidates."
This is a longshot, I think, but let's assume that Roe and it's progeny (particularly Planned Parenthood v. Casey) are overturned and the issue of whether to criminalize abortion is left to individual state legislatures. Let's further assume that some states do end up criminalizing abortion (probably elective abortions, as I can't imagine any state legislature would try, let alone succeed, in banning abortions where there is an overriding medical imperative such as the life of the mother). Other states (mostly on the coasts) will likely pass legislation to legalize elective abortion.

So what are we left with? A patchwork of laws that change at the state line. The situation for abortion will be somewhat similar to the Mason-Dixon Line. There are some obvious distinctions, of course. Holding slaves in the antebellum South was ongoing conduct, whereas getting an abortion is a discrete event. Moreover, today women anti-abortion states can easily overcome an anti-abortion statute by simply traveling across a state line.

Which leads my main question: Is there any remedy for this for anti-abortion states? Not that I can see. South Dakota can't punish its citizens for going to another state and engaging in conduct that is legal there (getting an abortion).