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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    What it really means to be pro-life

    Damion LeeNatalicolumnist
    Damion LeeNatali

    So here’s a job that just got harder: Working for the Nicaragua Tourism Institute.

    Two weeks ago, the Nicaraguan Legislature approved a blanket ban on all abortions, even if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s health or is the result of rape or incest. That’s not exactly the kind of message you want to slap on a billboard – “”Welcome to Nicaragua, where the beaches are sandy and you’re forced to have your rapist’s child!””

    Not surprisingly, opposition to the bill has been fierce. Senior United Nations officials, several European ambassadors, women’s groups and droves of doctors have denounced the Nicaraguan legislation. “”They are forcing women and girls to die,”” one protester told Reuters. “”They are not pro-life, they are pro-death.””

    But as intense as the debate has been south of the border, the reaction here in the States has been muted, probably because we have a little trouble in our own backyard. South Dakota, home to a whopping one abortion clinic, passed a law in February that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion except to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.

    Well, at least they get points for honesty. South Dakota’s bill is remarkably similar to the Nicaraguan bill in its frankness: You’ve been raped? Too bad. You’re the victim of incest? Consider moving to North Dakota. There’s a small chance you could die? Come back when death is more certain.

    The bill’s opponents were able to push the issue to a statewide vote, and voters went to the polls yesterday to decide if the bill becomes law. The results were still unclear at press time, and what lies in the future is difficult to determine. The courts have generally required that abortion laws include an exception for the health of the mother, but it’s unclear whether South Dakota’s “”we’ll wait till you’re almost dead”” exception will pass muster.

    So while the dog pile of Iraq, immigration and scandal-ridden incumbents has dominated the headlines in recent months, Nicaragua and South Dakota make it clear that the abortion battle is as heated as ever. Many seem to be caught by surprise at the narrowness of these new abortion laws, but if you think about it, it’s really just the chickens coming home to roost.

    The foundation of the pro-life argument, after all, is an absolute: A fetus (whether at conception or soon thereafter) is a living human being worthy of protection. Period. End of story. Right?

    Not really. If the laws passed by pro-life politicians (and the people who vote for them) are any indication, the general pro-life trend in America is to have it both ways. A fetus is a living human being worthy of protection, unless the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. A fetus is a living human being worthy of protection, unless the pregnancy is a threat to the mother’s health.

    The result? A logical conundrum that’s reminiscent of “”Animal Farm””: All fetuses are living human beings worthy of protection, but some fetuses are more worthy than others.

    Obviously, this little tap dance has proved remarkably effective for Republicans. A socially conservative candidate can stand at the podium and rail against immorality and legalized infanticide, but he can also assure parents that their little girl won’t ever have to bear a rapist’s child and mothers that they won’t have to die to give birth to their baby.

    Some conservatives are pretty straightforward about it. In Washington, D.C., over the summer, I talked it over with a pro-life staffer in the Senate. Pressing him on the topic of abortion, he looked me in the eye and admitted that Republicans could never seek to ban all abortions. “”It’d be political suicide,”” he shrugged. “”We could never do it – we’d never get elected.””

    But it looks like the dance is over. The few courageous (and politically tone-deaf) souls in South Dakota and Nicaragua have thrown electoral caution to the wind, exposing the pro-life argument for what it really is (an absolute) and for what it can’t be (a little something for everyone).

    And you know what? It’s about time voters come face to face with the logical conclusion of the pro-life policy. And if they really believe in it, more power to them.

    Let’s just hope they’re never raped.

    Damion LeeNatali is a senior majoring in political science and history. He can be reached at

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