All Words tells us that an "elephant in the room" is an idiom for "a problem or difficult issue that is very obvious, but is ignored for the convenience or comfort of those involved."
In the case of the South Dakota's Measure 11 ballot initiative, the elephant in the room for pro-life individuals and organizations is the possible enshrinement of many abortion laws into state law.
Let's start with sharing what Measure 11 contains in the way of exceptions:
That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
Except as permitted by section 3, 4, 5, or 6 of this Act, any person who knowingly performs any procedure upon a pregnant woman, or uses any instrument upon a pregnant woman, or administers any medicine or drug or substance or device to a pregnant woman, or prescribes or procures or sells any medicine or drug or substance or device for use by a pregnant woman, or employs any other means, with the intent of causing the termination of the life of an unborn human being, is guilty of performing an illegal abortion, which is a Class 4 felony.
Section 3. Life of the Pregnant Woman Exception. [emphasis added] That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
No person may be prosecuted under section 2 of this Act if a licensed physician has made a judgment that an abortion is necessary to avert the death of the pregnant woman, unless in reaching that judgment the physician knowingly disregards accepted standards of medical practice. The basis of that judgment shall be specifically identified and documented in the woman's medical records.
Section 4. Health of the Pregnant Woman Exception. [emphasis added] That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
No person may be prosecuted under section 2 of this Act if a licensed physician has made a judgment that an abortion is necessary because there is a serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of the functioning of a major bodily organ or system of the pregnant woman should the pregnancy be continued and which risk could be prevented through an abortion, unless in reaching that judgment the physician knowingly disregards accepted standards of medical practice. The basis of that judgment shall be specifically identified and documented in the woman's medical records.
Section 5. Rape of the Pregnant Woman Exception. [emphasis added] That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
No person may be prosecuted under section 2 of this Act if the woman has reported to the licensed physician that her pregnancy is the result of a rape as defined in § 22-22-1, in which she was the victim, and the physician has complied with sections 7 and 8 of this Act.
Section 6. Incest Exception. [emphasis added] That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
No person may be prosecuted under section 2 of this Act if the woman has reported to the licensed physician that her pregnancy is the result of incest as defined in section 14 of this Act, and the physician has complied with sections 7 and 8 of this Act.
Section 7. Condition for Rape and Incest Exceptions. [emphasis added] That chapter 22-17 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
Any abortion performed pursuant to section 5 or 6 of this Act must be performed before the completion of the twentieth week following the date of the pregnant woman's last menstrual period, as determined by the physician, according to accepted standards of medical practice, and as confirmed by ultrasound. Any physician who knowingly disregards accepted standards of medical practice in making this determination is subject to a Class 4 felony.
What you have just read is described as a pro-life proposal, and it is further being supported by nearly all of the noteworthy pro-life leaders in the United States. You can see for yourself who these individuals are by going to http://voteyesforlife.com/initiative.html.
What is interesting about this language, which to my mind is a mirror image of total despair, is that in 2006, a much stronger proposal was on the ballot, and it lost by very few votes. But rather than go back and try again, having learned what the voters were concerned about and vowing to fight the fight again for all the babies from the moment of creation, the pro-life strategists in the state chose the language you have just read.
John C. Willke, M.D. says of this language,
My long medical experience has convinced me that there is no medical need to put an exception for the life of the mother in anti-abortion law. Pregnancy from assault rape is extremely rare, there being fewer then 500 a year out of a total of 6.5 million pregnancies, over half of which voluntarily carry to term. Even so, I understand the concerns that many people have for these exceptions, and I am willing to testify for the need to put these exceptions into law. My total experience has also long since convinced me that abortion certainly kills a living human, but it is also very dangerous and damaging to mothers and to many fathers.
The overwhelming damage that Planned Parenthood does outweighs any other good that I unequivocally condemn this and other similar abortion providers. I believe if you re-pass your law with the noted exceptions that you will be doing a service to, not only to the people of South Dakota, but to the United States and to the world.
There is nothing I can write to justify what Dr. Willke says above. It is obvious that he contradicts himself. This is but one example of the lengths to which pro-life leaders have gone to justify their support for this despair-laden measure.
You may wonder why I have chosen to use the word "despair" in discussing this matter, and I will be perfectly honest. What this measure exemplifies is surrender to political polling and public opinion that will cost the lives of—only God knows how many—preborn children. It has always been my view that we who are leaders in the pro-life movement are supposed to set a standard of hope, confidence in truth and joy in defending it, regardless of polls, politics or pundits. Isn't that why God called us to be His servants in this struggle?
If not, then what are we doing here?
I am appalled by the situation in South Dakota and the lengths to which people have gone to justify the unjustifiable. If you haven't read enough of the blather, you can read Bishop Paul Swain's statement online.
As I told the pro-life South Dakotan who called the statement to my attention,
I note in the bishop's message that he uses the political buzzwords "the art of the possible," which is another way of admitting defeat. It has been our contention that if those who supported Referred Law 6 in 2006 had come back with the same language in 2008, they would have won. But now we will never know because they succumbed to the politics of despair. And I have no idea how to communicate with a bishop who claims he will not make a political judgment while he is at the same time making one. That sort of thinking is precisely why, after 35 years, we still face abortion on demand in America.
Further, if anyone with a smattering of common sense reads the bishop's description of the law, he would have to agree that the bishop supports the same number of abortions as the Supreme Court did in 1973 when they defined the reasons for abortion, as we point out in our analysis of the decisions:
Doe v. Bolton is the key that unlocked legal abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy. It was Roe that said states could prohibit post-viability abortions except those for "the life or health of the mother," but it was Doe that defined "health."
According to Justice Blackmun's Doe opinion, in determining whether an abortion is necessary for a woman's health, a doctor's judgment "may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age – relevant to the well-being of the patient."
Thus, under Doe, if a woman's pregnancy is causing her "emotional" problems, she may legally abort her child in the ninth month. This would be an abortion for reason of "health."
Despair is an elephant that is consuming the very core of what it means to be pro-life, and it is guzzling right and left as it denies personhood. In the midst of all this shines the bright light of South Dakota Right to Life, an organization which has chosen NOT to support Measure 11 and has said so publicly.
Thank God for their vision of hope!
Please pray for those suffering from despair; we cannot allow the elephant to continue trampling the babies.