July 23, 2006

The War on Women -- and on Doctors

[See Update at the end.]

Become a doctor, and maybe go to jail or even face the death penalty:
Doctors who perform illegal abortions under the terms of HB1215 could face a first-degree murder charge under revised homicide provisions in South Dakota law, a lawyer for the South Dakota State Medical Association says.

Pierre lawyer Dave Gerdes said in a legal memo written for the association that if HB1215 survives challenges at the ballot and, possibly, in court, it could combine with a revised state homicide statute to pose an ominous legal threat to doctors charged with violating the law.

"It is at least possible that a prosecutor or a court will decide that a physician performing a procedure qualifying as an abortion under the language of the new statute can be prosecuted for first-degree murder," Gerdes wrote in the memo.

In response, the prime sponsor of HB1215 said Thursday that violating the law would be a Class 5 felony, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. But Republican Rep. Roger Hunt, a lawyer from Brandon, wouldn't rule out the possibility that a doctor could face a murder charge and even the death penalty in certain situations.

"I've never been a state's attorney, but I do know that when you take the life of a human being in our society, every state's attorney is going to look at all potential charges - murder all the way down to manslaughter and aggravated assault," Hunt said.

In his memo, Gerdes said there's a question about whether HB1215 - which bans almost all abortions - would ever have effect in law. Although the bill was approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike Rounds, it has been referred to a public vote in November. And even if it survives that vote, the law will likely be challenged in court on constitutional grounds, a process that could take years to conclude.

"As a practical matter, in due course a federal court will likely restrain the effect of 1215 until its constitutionality is litigated," Gerdes wrote. "But a period of doubt may exist."

And if HB1215 eventually does take effect, its potential penalties could be magnified by changes in homicide statutes that were passed by the South Dakota Legislature in 2005 and took effect July 1, he wrote.

Lawyers disagree on the combined effects of the homicide law (South Dakota codified law 22-16-4) and HB1215, Gerdes wrote. But because the issue hasn't been clarified in court, the possibility exists that a doctor could be tried for first-degree murder for performing an illegal abortion, he wrote.

First-degree murder is a Class A felony with a maximum penalty of death. Hunt said that's not something that a state's attorney would casually bring against a doctor.


The fact that it's being discussed at all has Dr. Marvin Buehner, a specialist on obstetrics and gynecology in Rapid City, ready to move his practice to another state.

"If this law doesn't get repealed in November, I'll be looking for another place to work," Buehner said. "It would be hard to stay in this kind of environment."
The South Dakota abortion ban and Bush's indefensible and morally obscene veto of the embryonic stem cell research bill are straight out of the Dark Ages, or worse.

I would have thought it would trouble those who still support Noble Leader's war allegedly fought on behalf of "Western civilization" that Bush and many of the current crop of Republicans are ultimately on the same side as our enemies. Of course, that would only be true if they were capable of coherent thought, and of understanding what the concepts of liberty and personal freedom actually mean.

Since we know they aren't, never mind.

UPDATE: Patrick Cockburn, one of the handful of genuinely superb foreign reporters, shines an unforgiving light on the immoral and sickening contradictions:
While the eyes of the world are elsewhere, Baghdad is still dying and the daily toll is hitting record levels. While the plumes of fire and smoke over Lebanon have dominated headlines for 11 days, with Britain and the US opposing a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, another Bush-Blair foreign policy disaster is unfolding in Iraq.

Invoking the sanctity of human life, George Bush wielded the presidential veto for the first time in his presidency to halt US embryonic stem cell research in its tracks. He even paraded one-year-old Jack Jones, born from one of the frozen embryos that can now never be used for federally funded research, and talked of preventing the "taking of innocent human life". How hollow that sounds to Iraqis.

More people are dying here - probably more than 150 a day - in the escalating sectarian civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the continuing war with US troops than in the bombardment of Lebanon.


Iraqis are terrified in a way that I have never seen before, since I first visited Baghdad in 1978. Sectarian massacres happen almost daily. The UN says 6,000 civilians were slaughtered in May and June, but this month has been far worse. In many districts it has become difficult to buy bread because Sunni assassins have killed all the bakers who are traditionally Shia.


Where are the Americans in all this? Iraqis who used to say that they were against the US occupation but at least the Americans prevented civil war now think that a civil war has started regardless of their presence.


I never expected the occupation of Iraq by the US and Britain to end happily. But I did not foresee the present catastrophe. Baghdad has survived the Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War, UN sanctions, more bombing and, finally, a savage guerrilla war. Now the city is finally splitting apart, and - most surprising of all - this disaster scarcely gets a mention on the news as the world watches the destruction of Beirut so many miles away.
Read the entire article.