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South Dakota bans all abortions. reject exceptions for Women' health
Thursday Feb 23rd, 2006 1:01 PM
February 23, 2006
Ban on Most Abortions Advances in South Dakota

February 23, 2006
Ban on Most Abortions Advances in South Dakota
PIERRE, S.D., Feb. 22 — Setting up South Dakota to become the first state in 14 years to start a direct legal attack on Roe v. Wade, lawmakers voted on Wednesday to outlaw nearly all abortions.

Across the country, abortion rights advocates reacted with outrage and dismay. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which runs the sole abortion clinic in South Dakota, said it was bracing to fight the move in court immediately, if the governor signs it.

"This represents a monumental step backward for personal privacy for women," Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said.

Some opponents of abortion rights celebrated what they called a bold and brave move and lauded South Dakota for taking the lead in what they said they hoped would become a series of states to challenge Roe, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal.

The shifting makeup of the United States Supreme Court, the opponents said, offered a crucial opportunity, the first since at least 1992.

"It is a calculated risk, to be sure, but I believe it is a fight worth fighting," State Senator Brock L. Greenfield, a Clark Republican who is also director of the South Dakota Right to Life, told his colleagues in a hushed, packed chamber here.

After more than an hour of fierce and emotional debate, the senators rejected pleas to add exceptions for incest or rape or for the health of the pregnant woman and instead voted, 23 to 12, to outlaw all abortions, except those to save the woman's life.

They also rejected an effort to allow South Dakotans to decide the question in a referendum and an effort to prevent state tax dollars from financing what is certain to be a long and expensive court battle.

To be enacted, the bill, the most sweeping ban approved in any state in more than a decade, requires the signature of Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, who opposes abortion.

After overwhelmingly approving the measure this month, the House, too, has to vote on it again because the Senate slightly reworded it, although the intent of the bill was unchanged and the vote there seems unlikely to shift.

Mr. Rounds has said he will not comment on whether he will sign the measure until it reaches his desk. It is likely to arrive there by next week. He has 15 days to make a decision.

In an interview this week, Mr. Rounds said he had doubts about whether now was the time to make a "full frontal attack" on Roe v. Wade, as opposed to pressing for more laws that restrict abortions — setting limits, for instance, on their timing, methods or the requirements for parental notification.

Those restrictions, he said, have immediate effects on preventing abortions in South Dakota.

Mr. Rounds suggested that the two approaches might be possible simultaneously, particularly as a way to keep opponents of abortion rights from splintering over strategy questions. The key, he said, was in "saving lives while at the same time appeasing a segment that says you won't know unless you try the direct frontal attack."

Lawmakers opposed to abortion rights here — and advocates opposed to abortion rights around the country — have been split over timing questions. Some argue that the arrivals of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the Supreme Court and speculation that Justice John Paul Stevens might soon retire, made now an ideal time to challenge Roe.

Others, however, have said a challenge should wait, for the arrival of additional justices who might be open to overturning Roe and for a shift in public opinion.

Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the South Dakota action — similarly broad bans have recently been proposed in at least five other states — reminded her of a wave of state challenges to Roe in the years just before 1992, when the Supreme Court reaffirmed a core right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

"People have this sense that the court is in flux and is shifting so they want to try to test out how far they can go," Ms. Northrup said. "The answer will be in how the new justices vote."

On Wednesday in the Senate chamber, any division about strategy among opponents of abortion rights seemed to have vanished.

"This state has a right and a duty to step up to the plate," Senator William M. Napoli, Republican of Rapid City, told his colleagues before he voted for the ban.

It passed by a margin larger than many on both sides had predicted.

Opponents, meanwhile, questioned the purpose of such a law and the potential costs of the litigation, and they recited harrowing stories of women who had become pregnant, for example, after having been raped.

"What can we as a state possibly gain by passing a bill that is unconstitutional?" asked Senator Clarence Kooistra, Republican of Garretson, who added that he represented the "silent majority" of South Dakotans who would not approve outlawing abortion nearly entirely.

Leaders of a movement against abortion rights in this state said they had raised $1 million in donations to help pay for the legal fight ahead.

"I didn't want money to be the reason people wouldn't vote for this bill," said Leslee J. Unruh, founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, who said she could not disclose the identities of those who had pledged money. "We're concerned with the 800 children aborted here every year."

After the vote, Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood, left the statehouse promising to press Mr. Rounds to veto the bill.

"I'm very hopeful that he will be a voice of reason in this process and will choose the health and safety of the women of South Dakota over the political tool that this bill was designed to be," Ms. Looby said.

Failing that, she said, Planned Parenthood will sue, and it expects that a court will block the law from going into effect, while the case makes its way through the courts, a process that could take years.

"It scares me," Ms. Looby said, "to think that may in fact be the reality for my daughter's generation."

Copyright 2006The New York Times
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
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Yeah, Molly!Good for herMonday Mar 20th, 2006 2:19 PM
Molly saves the day... great feminist blogAnother methodSaturday Mar 18th, 2006 11:32 AM
I've done MEIt was empoweringTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 7:02 PM
Its time to ignore men's lawsUtopia BoldTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 4:59 PM
And another thingIt IS youTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 4:31 PM
You don't need toYou can't get pregnantTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 3:18 PM
As you said...Oscar G.Tuesday Mar 7th, 2006 2:38 PM
Sorry!Didnt mean to post that three timesTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 1:46 PM
It isnt murderAnd as more women who have had abortionsTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 12:59 PM
It isnt murderAnd as more women who have had abortionsTuesday Mar 7th, 2006 12:58 PM

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