The decades-old abortion debate

Emma Dejong

Abortion has been discussed, debated and defended for decades.

Since 1973 more than 50 million abortions have been performed in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization.

On its website, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America says abortions are “very common.”

“In fact, more than one out of three women in the United States have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old,” it says.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported that South Dakota has one of the lowest abortion rates in the United States. In 2010, 737 women had abortions in South Dakota, and 279 were 20 to 24 years old.

Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls is currently the only clinic in the state that performs abortions. Sanford Health does only in specific situations.

“Sanford Health does not perform elective abortions,” said Cindy Morrison, vice president of Health Policy at Sanford. “The rare, sad and unfortunate termination of a pregnancy occurs only in the extreme case of a life threat to a mother, the terminal condition of a fetus or the removal of an already expired fetus from the mother.”

The Brookings Health System does not perform abortions, and Avera McKennan’s representative was not available for comment.

The abortion debate involves several issues, both legal and moral.

“For me what it comes down to is figuring out what exactly a human life is,” said Libby Trammell, president of the SDSU Campus Women’s Coalition. “When does it go from a bundle of cells to a baby?”

For some on the anti-abortion side of the debate the effect of abortion on the mother is a concern as well.

“It’s always tears,” said Deborah Dyer ,the executive director of the Elizabeth House in Brookings. “And if there isn’t tears, you can just see that they would go back and do things differently.”

These and other abortion-related issues have caused heated discussions in South Dakota in recent years. During March of 2011 Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law that required women to wait 72 hours and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers before aborting their baby.

However, judge Karen Schreier of the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals granted an injunction on June 30, 2011, that blocked the law from taking effect. The injunction will last until a lawsuit can be settled in court. Currently, women still must wait 24 hours to have an abortion in South Dakota.

On its website, Planned Parenthood states there are three options for a pregnant woman: “abortion, adoption and parenting.” It warns against people who would say otherwise.

“Beware of so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’” it states. “These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They often don’t give women all their options.”

Dyer said the women she has known who have had abortions almost always regret it.

“At least with the women I’ve worked with, they’ve never said, ‘After I had my abortion, I still feel like it was a ball of tissue,’” Dyer said. “What they do say is I know that was a child.”

According to Dyer, Elizabeth’s House exists to help women not make the choice to have an abortion.

“It’s the most backward, hateful thing,” she said. “How is it ever normal for a mother to give up her child?”

For Trammell the debate comes back to the question of when life begins.

“I realize that for many anti-choice people life begins at conception,” Trammell said, adding that her views do not reflect the Women’s Coalition. “A fertilized egg is a human life. To me this is ridiculous. If that is true, then we should all be celebrating our birthdays nine months earlier, and we should be calling eggs ‘chickens’ or calling bails of cotton ‘T-shirts.’”

The views on abortion are not always black and white.

“I may be pro-choice, but it doesn’t mean that I like the abortion statistics,” Trammell said. “I would rather a woman never have an accidental pregnancy.”