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I hereby define “Seth” to mean “the greatest thing since slice bread”

sliced-bread.jpgMan, the Eight Circuit really fucking blew it on this one. Last week, Slate published an interesting article on the Eighth Circuit’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds, a decision which will allow South Dakota’s 2005 abortion law to finally go into effect. That law requires doctors to give abortion candidates a written statement which states: (i) that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being;” (ii) that the woman has “an existing relationship with that unborn human being” which is protected by the constitution; and (iii) that “depression and related psychological distress” and “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide” are “statistically significant risk factors” associated with an abortion.

The Slate article is really worth a full read but, in a nutshell, the Eight Circuit’s decision was focused on the “human being” part, since the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, explicitly found that a fetus is not a legal person. But get this. The South Dakota law defines “human being” as “an individual living member of the species Homo sapiens, including the unborn human being during the entire embryonic and fetal ages from fertilization to full gestation.” And the Eight Circuit said that’s fine, ignoring the fact that women being told they have “an existing relationship with that unborn human being” aren’t going to go look up what the statute defines “human being” as. As Emily Bazelon, the Slate article’s author, puts it:

The idea that a fetus is whole and separate will probably be news to a lot of women who have carried one. But what’s more distressing, because the majority’s reasoning is so strained, is the assertion that by defining a phrase one way, a state can erase its ambiguity and the variety of perceptions people bring to it. It’s one thing to say—as the case law the majority relies on here does—that a statutory definition binds judges and their interpretation of language. It’s another entirely to say that when doctors tell women they are carrying a human being, that women will think, Oh, right, that means only the long, convoluted thing that the state says it does. Most patients won’t think that, because they won’t necessarily define “human being” the way the statute does.

I’m sorry, but whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, I don’t see how you can possibly justify the Eighth Circuit’s willingness to be nonsensical here.

| Comments (8)


I'm with you(I'm pro choice though i'd never personally have an abortion myself[I'd also never judge some one that did as long as their reason was, for me, palatable])but I'm struggling to find any sense in that...and not in a 'WONT SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!' type of way...but in in terms of logic and basic grasp of english and sentece structure kind of way.

To cut that short....jigga what?

Yeah, me and my fetus have a great existing relationship. We hit the bars every Saturday and just get shitfaced. My fetus loves to party. (FYI, just in case you're worried, I have no fetus.)

I am so confused right now. So if I wanted to have an abortion in South Dakota, I have to sign a waiver stating that I understand I'm committing infanticide and will probably kill myself as a result?

Not to be confrontational or difficult, but seriously, tell me one thing in that 2005 South Dakota law that is not true.

Well, Megan,

A fertilized egg is not a person. At least I've never seen one walking, or rolling, down the street. Have you?

You may want to believe something to the contrary, but believing doesn't make it so.

A fertilized egg is not a person. Hmm...really? What is it then? A puppy?

One more thought there, Rob. So, my Dad was in a coma for 3 months...not walking or rolling anywhere. Is he not a person? Or how about the severely retarded...or parapelegic? So, what constitutes a person to you?

And incidently, I happen to be pro-choice. I believe wholeheartedly that abortion should be legal and protected...but lets not have any nonsense about a fetus not being a person. Lets call a spade a spade and be real about what we're doing here.

Since you asked, Megan,

a fertilized egg is... a fertilized egg. That's why it's called a fertilized egg, or zygote, but not a person.

I don't know about you, but I'm not a zygote, I'm a person. I'd like to think there's a bit of a difference.

I suppose at one time, I was a fertilized egg, but I don't remember that part, because I wasn't really there yet.

And a bit before that I was a sperm and an ovum. Don't remember that part either.

So what's the difference between the two stages? What magic occurs that suddenly transforms the separate sperm and egg into a person? A single cell is a person? When I cut myself and bleed, lots of my cells get out. Does that mean that there are all kinds of copies of me in the bandage I throw out?

I'll have to go with a paraphrase of the pornography definition; I can't say for certain what a person is, but I know it when I see it.