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State Medical Association Opposing Abortion Ban Measure

October 10, 2008

Rapid City, SD - South Dakota medical professionals who oppose a statewide abortion ban now have the backing of the South Dakota State Medical Association. Dr. Cynthia Weaver, a Rapid City physician and the association's president, says their governing council has reaffirmed its previous position supporting the American Medical Association's policy.

The AMA policy states: "The support of or opposition to abortion is a matter for individuals to decide, based on personal values and beliefs." For that reason, Weaver says, the state medical association is opposing Initiated Measure 11, the abortion ban measure.

"Our concern is solely based on interference by the government in medical practice and restrictions on physician-patient communications."

Proponents of Initiative 11 say safeguards are included to protect the life and health of the mother and for victims of rape and incest. But Rapid City obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Marvin Buehner believes the Initiative gives women no options in situations where the survival of the fetus is unlikely.

"For example, a woman carrying a child that has no brain development, or chromosome abnormalities incompatible with survival, would be forced to carry that pregnancy to full term."

Dr. Buehner also worries that the measure sets the bar for a legal abortion so high, with such very severe penalties, that in reality no physician would perform an abortion for any reason if the measure passed.

"A physician would try to define the terms of the bill and weigh the risk of a class four felony prosecution, ten years in prison and $20,000 fine, which would effectively end that doctor's career. No physician is going to do that."

Supporters of Measure 11 say it will eliminate the use of abortion as a means of birth control, but Dr. Buehner argues that it represents government intrusion into the personal lives of its citizens and criminalizes a major area of health care. He calls the measure bad public policy and terrible medicine.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD