New Stanek WND column: “Incrementalists and purists vs. the South Dakota abortion ban”


Over the 34 years abortion has been legal in the U. S., pro-life organizations have adapted certain philosophies.
I’m thinking now of strategists who incrementally plot our legal course based on court decisions and a head count of pro-life and anti-life judges. I’m also thinking of purists who won’t support legislation with compromises or exceptions. No stopgaps allowed.
The South Dakota abortion bans of 2006 and 2007 present quandaries for both these camps….
For purists, the evidence starkly suggests even a plurality of pro-life voters will only vote for an abortion ban with exceptions. Furthermore, prospects for passage of a human life amendment to the U. S. Constitution are bleak, since it would require ratification by three-fourths of the states….
As for incremental strategists, at least two national pro-life organizations opposed the South Dakota ban last year, stating the time was not ripe to trigger the Supreme Court’s response to whether Roe v. Wade was indeed constitutional, since the Court is currently weighted 5-4 against us….

Continue reading my column today, “”Incrementalists and purists vs. the South Dakota abortion ban.”
Also see bonus notes augmenting my column on page 2 of my blog. These were gleaned from a speech given by South Dakota state Rep. Roger Hunt on Feb. 3

Bonus notes from Stanek’s Feb. 7 WND column, “Incrementalists and purists vs. the South Dakota abortion ban”:
I attended a speech given by South Dakota state Rep. Roger Hunt on Feb. 3 and learned interesting facts about the backdrop of South Dakota’s abortion bans and the bans themselves.
As I mentioned in my column, what I found most reassuring was that crafters wrote the bans with Supreme Court Justice Kennedy in mind. Kennedy is a swing voter on abortion who has written extensively both in agreement and dissent about his Court’s decisions on abortion cases throughout the years.
Other points Rep. Hunt made in his speech:

  • The population of South Dakota is 750,000. It is a pro-life state. Over 75% of the public say they are pro-life. The legislature is truly a citizens’ legislature in that it meets only 40 days a year, enabling it to do a number of things not possible in other states. South Dakota is one of few states that could pass a ban, based on its culture, legislature, and history. Six or seven states are looking at ban bills.
  • The legislature has been chipping away at abortion since the early 1990s. For instance:

    o The state now requires abortion clinics and abortionists to report certain information to the Department of Health, which the legislature uses as a basis for arguing some of our issues. Abortion reporting has established 85% of aborting mothers in SD do so for convenience and less than 2% of abortions are for rape/incest.
    o Abortion clinics must now be licensed, and the law requires parental notification.
    o There are now standards for disposal of aborted babies to establish respect.
    o There is now an “unborn child victims of vehicular homicide” law.
    o An informed consent law is now making its way through the courts. It requires abortionists to discuss the mother/child bond. Interestingly, Planned Parenthood got out of the case due to depositions which were showing doctors are almost absent from the abortion procedure.

  • In 2005 legislators established a task force to study the impact of abortion on women. “No state legislature before had bothered to do its homework,” said Hunt. There is now much medical and scientific information not available in 1973. Roe v. Wade did not discuss the harm of abortion to women, for instance. Additionally, molecular biology has given us the ability to have genetic understanding of the essence and beginning of human life. This task force gave the basis for introducing HB1215, the absolute abortion ban in 2006. It was passed by a supermajority of both houses and signed by pro-life governor.
  • Planned Parenthood said HB1215 had no rape/incest exceptions, although it did. The problem was the bill was so carefully crafted on these exceptions it did not include the word, “rape.” Planned Parenthood hit on that point constantly, and our side was never able to get the message across and had to contend with being called extremists.
  • “The loss of 1215 was not easy to take,” said Hunt. “But there was a benefit. It showed that even in a good pro-life state like South Dakota, a ban could not have no exceptions. We would like pure legislation. We tried. We now have to go with Plan B.” The new ban, HB1293, has clear, clean language, which defines exceptions but excludes loopholes. A poll taken February first of 6,300 South Dakotans showed 55% favored the new bill and 45% did not, which was the reverse of last fall’s referendum outcome.
  • Rep. Hunt did not think Planned Parenthood would call for a new referendum. While the other side has trained the public that the rape/incest exception is acceptable, Planned Parenthood trapped itself by stating a ban needed exceptions. Rep. Hunt thought Planned Parenthood would litigate the new ban in federal district court, asking for an injunction. The issue would be litigated in South Dakota for 1.5-2 years. Whoever loses would take it to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then the Supreme Court. No one can know whether the Supremes would agree to hear the case or whether they will rule our way.
  • In response to the concern that the South Dakota abortion ban would make its way through the courts prematurely, before the U. S. Supreme Court was decidedly pro-life, Rep. Hunt stated, “I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know the perfect time to introduce legislation of this nature. Every year that goes by millions of children die. I don’t know if waiting will help. But I do know this will energize people. We have to reverse thinking in the culture. This is one way.”
  • Rep. Hunt is an attorney. He looks at all legal arguments before introducing legislation and therefore has a 65% success rate of bills introduced. “In this case,” said Hunt, “South Dakota has a couple of legal arguments”:

    o “Our constitution says lawmakers are to protect life. Take that argument and our history, and you have a substantive argument in our favor based on the 10th Amendment clause. This is in the original Bill of Rights. If a particular power has not been granted to the federal government, it is reserved to the states. This gives considerable greats rights to states. The day is drawing closer that the Supreme Court will be faced with key states’ rights decisions. Just what, if any, are the limitations of the 10th Amendment?
    o “Our other argument is there are 33 years of new information unknown to the 1973 Supreme Court. The best analogy is Brown vs. Board of Education [1954]. After Plessy vs. Ferguson [1896], the NAACP came in with new information and the Supreme Court did a 180 degree turn.”

  • Rep. Hunt reminded “purists” that although the South Dakota ban has exceptions, if it invokes the Supreme Court to deactivate Roe v. Wade, many states have trigger laws in place with no exceptions. “So this bill could help them get their perfect bill enacted in their states,” said Hunt.
  • Rep. Hunt read a quote from a Homily by Bishop Paul J. Swain of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls during his Mass for Life on Jan. 22, 2007: “Accepting the premise that a complete ban on abortions is not politically possible at this point, some ask whether Catholics could support legislation that allows exceptions for rape and incest. Without commenting on any specific proposal, there is in Catholic moral theology a principle of gradualism that would permit a Catholic in good conscience to support and vote for a lesser ban with the intention of diminishing as much evil as possible, and protecting the most life possible. It suggests while one would prefer to save all lives, saving nine out of ten lives if one is able is a good, of course deeply regretting that all ten cannot be saved. Supporting such a position must be done with the clear understanding that one is not compromising the principle of sanctity of all life, and that if and when the opportunity arises rescinding the exceptions would be sought.”
  • 20 thoughts on “New Stanek WND column: “Incrementalists and purists vs. the South Dakota abortion ban””

    1. New Stanek WND column: “Incrementalists and purists vs. the South Dakota abortion ban”

      Over the 34 years abortion has been legal in the U. S., pro-life organizations have adapted certain philosophies. I’m thinking now of strategists who incrementally plot our legal course based on court decisions and a head count of pro-life…

    2. I think we need a new name for “purists.” I don’t see any “purity” in a position that ultimately allows for more abortions and removes our ability to stop some of them from taking place.
      Off the top of my head I am thinking “absolutists” but I don’t know. I’m sure someone can come up with a better name.

    3. I have often read your column in WND and have said a hearty Amen! to most of your posts.
      But on this one I must disagree (and your comments sounded strangely familiar to Troy Newman’s).
      I would argue that incrementalism has been the downfall of pro-life ministry . We have always been willing to sacrifice a few for the many. In doing so over the past 34 years, we have effectually made no real changes in abortion policy. Abortion is still “legal” in all 50 states.
      IMHO the real problem is that we think too much like the world, and not enough like the Lord and His Word. We desperately need a Gideon’s Army. Those who will be faithful to His Word and His plan.
      For starters, Christians who say they are pro-life must get the log out of their own eyes first. We cannot tell people abortion is wrong, when there are many in our own camp who continue to use abortifacients. If children are truly a gift from God, then we who are called by His name, must be open to those gifts. And if we really believe that a baby is a baby from the time of conception, then they deserve the same protection.
      But most of all, I believe the last 34 years speaks volumes. Incrementalism has been a total failure. (A tree is known by it’s fruit.)
      Jill, if our strategies are not based upon the Word of God, they are doomed. We need to be consistent in our message that life begins at conception, and all are worthy of our protection.
      P.S. Keep the columns coming….

    4. Stephanie,
      Thanks for your kind words re: my columns.
      I have to ask, did you read my column today closely? I wasn’t comparing incrementalist vs. purist theory. In fact, I had harsh words for incrementalists as well as purists. It seems to me you’ve all become legalists.
      No, I was talking about an actuality. South Dakota voters have actually rejected an absolute abortion ban. Those same voters appear likely to accept a ban with exceptions.
      Do you mean to tell me Jesus would let 756 actual children die when He could have saved them to be fair to the 84 who would certainly die anyway?
      This is the actual point of discussion, Stephanie.

    5. I enjoyed your piece. But I have a couple of questions. When Jesus exercises full control over the earth, do you think He will entertain the value of incremental justice? The fact is that this nation cannot even attempt to pass a Human Life Amendment because it would fail. Doesn’t this indicate that this nation is as justifiably worthy of annihilation as all the rest? [Da 2:44] In for a penny; in for a pound.
      Being pro-life (morally not politically) without exceptions, helps to preserve individuals from the judgment of nations, just as being for Jesus whole souled, without exceptions in the first century preserved individual Jews from the annihilation of Israel and the Temple.

    6. Tony,
      When Jesus comes again, He will indeed mete full justice, hallelujah. That’s one thing that makes Jesus Jesus. Until then we will be frustrated because we cannot (Rom 8:19-23). We do the best we can in this imperfect place. We make sound decisions based on our understanding of Scripture.
      I have to ask where you think it infers in Scripture that Jesus would allow 756 actual children die to be fair to the 84 who were doomed to die anyway.
      And I don’t understand what you mean, “Being pro-life (morally not politically) without exceptions, helps to preserve individuals from the judgment of nations, just as being for Jesus whole souled, without exceptions in the first century preserved individual Jews from the annihilation of Israel and the Temple.”
      Your analogy mixes apples and oranges. People certainly died in Jesus’ time because of Jesus – babies at His birth whom Herod killed, many of His apostles, and the first century martyrs, to name some.

    7. Linda,
      Again, I was speaking about actualities in my column. Do you really mean to say you would let 756 children die to be fair to another 84 who are going to die anyway?
      As a Catholic, you might be helped by words the SD bishop had to say on this very topic last month. I copied them at the end of my “bonus notes” section of my column above these comments.

    8. I fully agree with you about the “purists.”
      They are being idiotic at best, murderous at worst.
      You are absolutely right.

    9. Jill, I agree with you. We must, ourselves, continue to believe and preach that no baby should be killed if it’s possible to prevent. (You can’t prevent a baby from dying in an ectopic pregnancy, for example, but you can prevent the mother from dying.) No medical procedure should ever have the purpose of taking a life, only of saving as many lives as possible.
      However, we are not currently in a position to make our beliefs law. We are in a position to make the deaths of 756 children per year illegal — and doing so will bring us one step closer to banning the other 84 deaths in the future. We owe it to both the former group AND the latter to take this opportunity!
      If this were a hostage situation, and hostage-takers agreed to release 756 children, would we not agree to that, secure the released hostages, and then renew our efforts to negotiate for the remaining 84? Or would we leave all the children with criminals threatening their lives as we stubbornly held to our “principles” — the ones maintaining that no children should die?
      For God’s sake, is the idea of life more important than actual lives themselves??
      Linda, you are upset that so far incremental legislation has not actually outlawed the death of one single child — yet when presented with legislation that would outlaw the deaths of hundreds, you balk? You say, “give the pro-aborts an inch and they will take a mile.” I say the voters are giving us an inch, and rather than reject it we should make it into our mile!
      The pro-aborts have been moving incrementally the whole time, and they are gaining ground! They’ve been successful because they proposed their death sentences slowly and one at a time: contraception, abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and (coming soon) infanticide of born children. We have to do something, and this is all we’ve got! If we don’t move now we’ll soon be arguing whether it’s worthwhile to pass a bill that only forbids parents from killing born children if…

    10. While re-reading my post I was struck with a thought. The book of James says, “If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16)
      If we say that no children should die, but do nothing to prevent it, what good is it?

    11. Hey Jill,
      Methinks there IS a big problem here. And it isn’t in the either-or dichotomy that you proposed here. It is actually in coming to believe a reality proclaimed by Jesus. He proclaimed that all life (not just babies’) was precious (and ironically the most-precious Life of all time – His – was ended because of this very truth). Are we then as His followers supposed to pick-and-choose (like Mengele at Auschwitz)?
      Or are we to find all life …. babies + mine are so incredibly precious that choosing is not even ‘human’. Re. what happens if the 700 die, is not up to me but up to God. [You are implying that those thus ‘saved’ live a life in imitation of us, the chosen????]
      Choosing some – is to kill us all – first morally, then actually. [Please shift your focus a wee bit from abortion to killing (not-so-innocent) seniors. Will we be striving to save some or to save everyone?]

    12. I don’t usually like to get involved in discussions like this, but I couldn’t help myself today. This whole thing reminded me of the faith of the boy trying to save the star-fish that had washed up on the beach. When asked why he even bothered knowing that he couldn’t possibly save them all, he replied, as he threw another one back into the water, “Because it’s makes a difference to that one.”
      We cannot move a mountain in one piece. Only God can do that. However, we can move a mountain piece by piece. What we have to realize is that sometimes the pieces are small and sometimes they’re bigger. We have to analyze each boulder and move it accordingly. Sometimes it’s too risky to move the boulder whole; we have to chip away at it little by little until it’s gone, and then move on to the next boulder and repeat the cycle until the whole mountain is moved piece by piece.
      I also like how Tony wrote that he was pro-life morally not politically. I think I fit into that category. Being pro-life is much more than a political issue. As a Catholic, I am pro-life to the very meaning of the word “life”, whether it be that of an unborn child, the elderly, the disabled, a criminal, or even non-human. I believe that all life has meaning and value. That being said, there is no political party that embraces all life. Therefore, I base my decisions on issues, not by what a political party tells me, but by my own morals and faith.

    13. John, you said, “Re. what happens if the 700 die, is not up to me but up to God.” You could say that about every human life, John. That is SO contrary to Scripture. We are our brother’s keepers.

    14. Hi Jill
      It’s not in the least contrary. We are ‘brothers’ only because we are His kin … His children (in God’s family). We do not pick-and-choose who are our brothers, now do we … that is His prerogative.
      This discussion is ‘strange’ until you claim it’s OK to isolate the preborn … for instance – which babies deserve abortion … answer: those with Downe’s Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities, of course! Who will die a deserving death … handicapped people and seniors … now which preborn is not even considered in such a discussion: the millions and millions who have died as fertilized eggs. This whole discussion is about death to some …. but death to many more that we do not even consider ‘human’. Is it not trying to make us decide who is ‘human enough’?

    15. just as a woman is or isn’t pregnant – she is never partially pregnant. Choosing some means others are not ‘worthy-of-life’. This is not the nature of my being. Sure, I can ignore, but deep down I must affirm Life … because ‘whatever you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do to ME’ …

    16. got to thinking about this … the problem might have to do with the rescuer-label attached. If we think of this as a sort of 9/11 rescue at the Twin Towers, all rescuers stay to the last but the rescued exit the situation as quickly as possible.
      The incremental approach makes more sense … than the all-or-nothing. We must (at the same time) very much appreciate those who slog it out day after day, year after year. This battle will at-times even seem like rescuers are extreme [I’m sure it was similar for the anti-slave trade.] in choosing those ‘forgotten-souls’. Rescuing a baby from partial-birth abortion is a no-brainer for pro-lifers, but putting every effort into rescuing children who are yet embryos in lieu of their older brothers/sisters is very hard to justify! Sorry, Lord, we are doing our best!

    17. I think that you need all types of strategies working in concert. I think that you need the big moves to keep people excited and passionate about the issue. You need to be taking the message to the pulpits and schools so that fewer people will do it. And you need to have the incremental gains for those that can be persuaded that different things are right.
      All of these in concert will overturn Roe v. Wade whereas one of these tactics would take a much longer time. We’re talking about heart change as much as policy change– changing the terms of the debate to life over choice. Since our sinful nature already predisposes us to selfish, sinful choices it’s a lot to overcome!

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