South Dakota legislature passes abortion ban
Wed Feb 22, 2006 7:37 PM ET166
SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) - South Dakota's
state senate voted on Wednesday for an abortion ban
aimed at giving the conservative-tilting Supreme Court
an opening to overturn rulings granting women the
right to the procedure.
Only an unlikely veto by Republican Gov. Michael
Rounds could prevent the legislation from becoming
law, people on both sides of the issue said.
"We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a
political tool and not about the health and safety of
the women of South Dakota," said Kate Looby of Planned
Parenthood, which operates the sole clinic providing
abortions in South Dakota.
"If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit
in short order to block it," she said after attending
the afternoon debate at the state capitol in Pierre.
Proponents have said the law was designed for just
such a court challenge.
The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent
appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice
Samuel Alito to the high court. The two conservatives
could pave the way to a decision overturning Roe v.
Wade, the 1973 ruling said women have a constitutional
right to abortion.
The high court said on Tuesday it will rule on whether
the federal government can ban some abortion
procedures, a case that could reveal whether the court
reshaped by President George W. Bush will restrict
Five states have proposed similar bans, but South
Dakota's legislature was the first to pass a law,
which threatens to punish doctors who perform
abortions with a five-year prison term and $5,000
Proposed amendments to the law to create exceptions to
specifically protect the health of the mother, or in
cases of rape or incest, were voted down. Also
defeated was an amendment to put the proposal in the
hands of voters.
The bill as written does make an exception if the
fetus dies during a doctor's attempt to save the
Two years ago, Rounds vetoed a similar bill, saying it
would wipe out existing restrictions on abortion while
it was fought in the courts. A rewritten bill lost
Some legislators opposed to abortion rights questioned
whether it was premature to challenge Roe v. Wade, and
said litigation would prove expensive for the sparsely
populated state. An anonymous donor has offered $1
million to the state to defray the costs of litigation.