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  1. I have nothing but praise for Cecilia Thunder Fire and her decision not to take South Dakota’s indefensible abortion ban lying down. But it’s important to remember that a Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation is a band-aid, it is not a complete remedy. The real problem with anti-abortion legislation, in South Dakota and elsewhere, is displacement: the outsourcing of abortion to other states, to other countries, or even to private, unsupervised bedrooms thanks to do-it-yourself online manuals.

    For a glimpse of South Dakota’s future we need only to look across the Atlantic at Portugal, which has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe (although, it should be noted, at least Portugal’s abortion prohibitions provide for an exception in the case of rape).

    Today, roughly 40,000 Portuguese women have illegal abortions each year, according to women’s rights groups. Thousands more go abroad for the procedure, including to neighboring Spain, where the abortion law is interpreted far more liberally.

    Moreover, pro-choice groups assert that hundreds of Portuguese women end up in hospitals each year because of complications resulting from illegal abortions. “The women who have abortions are the poorest, the youngest, the oldest, the violence victims,” said Maria Jose Magalhaes, a Porto-based member of UMAR, a women’s rights lobby group. “The others — the middle class, the literate women — they have other possibilities,” including access to private clinics staffed by competent medical personnel.

    Cecilia Thunder Fire is doing an admirable thing, stepping up to the plate in an attempt to assist the South Dakotan women who would suffer most from the abortion ban: the socially and physically disadvantaged, and the victims of violence and abuse. But she should not be forced by the state of South Dakota to bear that burden alone.

    South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, in his statement accompanying the signing of the anti-abortion legislation, said the following:

    In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them.

    It’s an admirable goal, to protect “the most vulnerable and most helpless” in society, and it is one that South Dakota is failing at. Miserably.

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