The South Dakota House passed a bill last Wednesday that would ban sex-selective abortions in the state, which already has stringent restrictions in place. Lawmakers say that the measure, which is on its way the state Senate after a vote of 60 to 10, is necessary due to the state's expanding Asian population, a demographic politicians claim have a higher tendency than other groups to abort their female children.
As Mother Jones reports, one of the bill’s supporters, Republican state Rep. Stace Nelson, cites the time he spent in Asia when he was a Marine as the basis for his expertise in women’s reproductive health and Asian family relations. Nelson, who is running for U.S. Senate, said, “Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia. And sadly, I can tell you that the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value the lives of my daughters.”
Another bill supporter, Republican state Rep. Don Haggar, similarly blamed foreign cultural values as the reason for the bill's necessity.
Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was. There are cultures that look at a sex-selection abortion as being culturally okay. And I will suggest to you that we are embracing individuals from some of those cultures in this country, or in this state. And I think that's a good thing that we invite them to come, but I think it's also important that we send a message that this is a state that values life, regardless of its sex," Haggard said.
But when it comes to actual evidence of those abortions taking place, the bill's supporters appear empty-handed. Peggy Gibson, a Democratic state representative who voted against the bill, noticed this and said there was not “one iota of evidence that a [sex-selective] abortion has taken place in South Dakota. This bill… is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.” So is there really any justification for the bill, or is it a pre-emptive strike and excuse to put pro-choice groups in an awkward bind?
If the bill is signed into law, South Dakota would join seven other states, including Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, that already have sex-selective abortion bans in place. Under the South Dakota bill, physicians would be required to ask women if they are getting an abortion based of the sex of the fetus, and would have to refuse to perform the procedure if the woman said yes. If they go ahead with the abortion, physicians would risk prison and fines.