Friday, April 25, 2008

Abortion Ban Signatures Verified & Media Coverage of the Issue

By Shannon
South Dakota Community Organizer for Planned Parenthood

Whenever I see or hear a story in the local media regarding the abortion ban in South Dakota, I cringe just a tiny bit. This happened this morning, and I’ve decided it needs to be addressed.

I was watching one of the local affiliates while getting ready for work… During one of the short 5 minute “cut-ins” to national programming, the anchor was reading a story about how the Secretary of State’s office was expecting to validate the signatures on the proposed abortion ban sometime today.

Throughout the story, the anchor kept referring to the initiated measure as a “ban with exceptions.” This absolutely drives me up the wall.

Now, I am not ragging on the media. After working seven and a half years in the Sioux Falls market, I defend the media time and time again. It’s a tough job, especially when it comes to covering stories on something as controversial as abortion. At times, covering those stories can be down right miserable, because no one is ever happy with the job you’ve done. You can never win. It’s also hard to take something so complex and break it into something that’s 20 seconds long.

Having said that, a “ban with exceptions” is not entirely accurate. I would challenge the media to find a better way to describe it.

Those for the ban certainly believe it has exceptions, but we do not. And, when it’s described as such by the media it can have the appearance of agreeing with those who support the ban. The way I see it (and I’m certainly not alone), this is an all-out ban on abortion. The exceptions are not exceptions at all. And, no doctor is ever going to perform an abortion in this state for fear of going to jail.

This is an all-out ban because it will only allow for a victim of rape or incest to obtain an abortion IF she’s willing to re-victimize herself by reporting the incident to authorities. Has anyone ever looked at the statistics of how under-reported rape and incest are?

No doctor will perform abortions in South Dakota because of the health and life "exception." That doctor would be under such scrutiny: was the woman’s life really in danger? Was her health really at risk?

Who’s going to do that? Not to mention what this measure will do to the doctor/patient relationship. We’ve got a serious problem when doctor’s are more worried about their careers than the best option for their patient.

I suggest the media call this an “abortion ban.” Later in the story, of course, they’re certainly obligated to describe what that ban entails. But, for the sake of accuracy, and for the appearance of non-bias… let’s call this what it is. It’s a ban on abortion, plain and simple.

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