Over the 34 years abortion has been legal in the U. S., pro-life organizations have adapted certain philosophies.

I’m thinking now of strategists who incrementally plot our legal course based on court decisions and a head count of pro-life and anti-life judges. I’m also thinking of purists who won’t support legislation with compromises or exceptions. No stopgaps allowed.

The South Dakota abortion bans of 2006 and 2007 present quandaries for both these camps.

Over 75 percent of South Dakota residents say they are pro-life, which makes it perhaps the strongest pro-life state. Yet last November its voters rejected an absolute abortion ban, while polls showed they would have overwhelmingly supported a ban with a rape/incest exception.

For purists, this evidence starkly suggests even a plurality of pro-life voters will only vote for an abortion ban with exceptions. Furthermore, prospects for passage of a human life amendment to the U. S. Constitution are bleak, since it would require ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Last week, South Dakota legislators introduced a ban with exceptions for rape, incest, life and “devastating and irreversible injury to the mother’s health … impair[ing] … the functioning of a major bodily organ or system.”

The exceptions were so strictly written as to guarantee at least 9 of 10 South Dakota babies would be saved from abortion if the new ban were enacted, since over 90 percent of abortions are for reasons other than those exceptions.

In response to the revised ban, one purist wrote, “I’m tempted to see the exceptions over no law at all, but that is temporal politics, and politics is compromise, so morally and publicly I say, ‘no exceptions!’, even if it means no ban!”

This all-or-nothing approach would seem to reject Holocaust rescuers or the Underground Railroad, but it is only applied to politics. For instance, it is acceptable to picket abortion mills as a last attempt to save babies rather than focus all energies on shutting mills down.

But let’s talk reality. According to the CDC, about 840 babies are aborted each year in South Dakota. A ban with exceptions would save 756 babies a year. Eighty-four could still be aborted.

I’d like my purist friends to tell me the speech they would give to those 756 children explaining their “greater good” theory and their sanction, however regretful, of the deaths of those children.

(I’d also like purists to explain to a child about to be tortured to death why they can’t support fetal pain legislation because it appears to condone abortion. But I digress.)

As for incremental strategists, at least two national pro-life organizations opposed the South Dakota ban last year, stating the time was not ripe to trigger the Supreme Court’s response to whether Roe v. Wade was indeed constitutional, since the Court is currently weighted 5-4 against us.

Incrementalists should note several interesting developments, however. First, pro-aborts apparently did not want the South Dakota ban to make its way to the Supreme Court either. They surprised everyone by launching a voter referendum instead of suing for an injunction of the ban, which I found fascinating.

This resulted in the passage of one entire year with the ban staying at legal ground zero – making no movement through the courts – which no one foresaw either. Meanwhile, the Supremes are one year older.

It is interesting that strategists think they know which Supreme is going to die or retire next. They must also know which state will have all the legislative stars in alignment at the right time to pass a ban when they say so.

This prompts me to remind the aforementioned organizations as an aside that they both supported Harriet Miers as the most recent Supreme Court nominee, so their judgment isn’t flawless.

They should speak with a South Dakota legislator who introduced the bans. I did and learned many items of interest, most significantly that they were crafted to allay expressed concerns of swing voter Justice Kennedy.

The cool reception of the South Dakota abortion bans by strategists suggests they sometimes don’t see the forest through the trees, are unwilling to take the slightest risk, and have control issues.

Meanwhile, purists appear unable to see the trees through the forest by their unwillingness to appreciate the conversation, persuasion and lives saved by incremental legislation.

Jesus said we should be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) He did not say we should be shrewder than snakes and more innocent than doves. We can take sensible beliefs too far.

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