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South Dakota anti-abortion law (originally bill, HB1215)

Reactions to the bill's passage

Sponsored link.

Reaction to the Senate's passage of the bill on 2006-FEB-22:

bulletNancy Northrup, spokesperson for the Center for Reproductive Rights, indicated that similar  bills proposing general abortion bans have been actively discussed recently in at least five other states. She said: "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. The answer will be in how the new justices vote."
bulletSenator William M. Napoli, (R - Rapid City) voted for the ban. He said: "This state has a right and a duty to step up to the plate."
bulletSenator Clarence Kooistra, (R - Garretson) said: "What can we as a state possibly gain by passing a bill that is unconstitutional?"
bulletLeslee J. Unruh, spokesperson for the Abstinence Clearinghouse said that she could not disclose who had pledged money to handle the inevitable lawsuit. She said: "I didn't want money to be the reason people wouldn't vote for this bill. We're concerned with the 800 children aborted here every year."
bulletKate Looby, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood in the state, referring to the governor, said: "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...It scares me to think that may in fact be the reality for my daughter's generation."
bulletNancy Keenan, spokesperson for Naral Pro-Choice America, said: "This represents a monumental step backward for personal privacy for women." 1

Reaction to the Legislature's passage of the bill on 2006-FEB-24:

bulletJim Sedlak, spokesperson for the American Life League said: "We think it is very significant. We celebrate the fact that a state has put forth legislation that has no exception. We believe when it gets to the Supreme Court... the court could use (the law) to declare personhood for the unborn baby in the womb."
bulletNancy Keenan, of Naral Pro-Choice America, said: "You are going to see a backlash to keep them from overstepping both freedom and privacy in this country." 2
bulletLeslee Unruh of Sioux Falls is an anti-abortion activist, founder of a pregnancy counseling center, and founder of an organization which teaches abstinence to teenagers. She said that some legislators felt under pressure because term limits would terminate some of their positions. She said: "I know the inner workings of the Legislature and the personalities, and I know it had to be this year. There's a window of time, and this is it." 3

Reaction to the bill by Governor Rounds:

The Associated Press reported on 2006-MAR-06 that Governor Mike Rounds (R) signed legislation banning nearly all abortions in South Dakota. When signing the bill, he said:

"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them."

Governor Rounds recognizes that the law is "a direct challenge." He expects a lawsuit to prevent the law from going into effect on 2006-JUL-01. He continued:

"That challenge will likely take years to be settled and it may ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Our existing laws regulating abortions will remain in effect.....While this is a state and national issue, I want to emphasize that whatever the courts decide, South Dakotans will continue to care about both the unborn child and mother. If we are pro-life, we must recognize the need to take care of women who are faced with a difficult pregnancy. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, we cannot protect the innocent child, unless we protect and care for the mother. We must help each mother to see the value of the gift that is a child, and nurture the mother for her own sake and for the sake of her child. Our state is committed to helping greater numbers of pregnant woman who will allow their babies to grow inside them and be born. In both the private and public sector in South Dakota, we have healthcare options, economic assistance before and after birth, adoption services, and, most importantly, people who want to help pregnant women, young mothers and their children." 4,5

Planned Parenthood's reactions:

Planned Parenthood, the operator of the only abortion clinic in South Dakota, planned to decide by 2006-MAR-20 which of two options to pursue:

bulletForce a state-wide referendum. They would have to launch a petition and obtain signatures from at least 16,728 registered voters over three months in order to have a public vote on the law placed on the ballot in the 2006-NOV mid-term congressional elections. If they succeeded in getting the question on the ballot, then the law would not come into effect on JUL-01 as scheduled.
bulletLaunch a lawsuit: This would probably be done in advance of the JUL-01 date when the law is scheduled to come into effect. The trial court would probably feel compelled to issue a temporary injunction because the law is so obviously in conflict with previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, like Roe v. Wade. This injunction would also prevent the law from coming into effect as scheduled. The long route to the U.S. Supreme Court would be expected to take years. The federal law to prevent D&X abortions (a.k.a. Partial Birth Abortions) was passed in 2003-NOV and was only accepted for consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006-FEB, some 27 months later.

Sarah Stoesz, president of the Planned Parenthood division that covers the Dakotas and Minnesota, said:

"We're evaluating which strategy to go with because we will not allow this law to stand, absolutely not...We will fight back and we are a powerful movement. There are millions of people ready, chomping at the bit in fact, to get at this fight."

The local Planned Parenthood division joined with a number of other groups who oppose the law to form the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. The Coalition filed papers with Secretary of State's Office to authorize their petition drive, which started on 2006-MAR-24.  They had until JUN-19 to collect sufficient signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. The Basic-Abortion-Rights Network, a Wisconsin group, also filed papers. However they backed out when the Coalition went forth with their own drive.

One indication of the divisiveness of the new anti-abortion law:

The Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D., is South Dakota's largest newspaper. The editors decided that the paper would not carry editorials which discuss the ban on abortion. Chuck Baldwin, the editor of the newspaper's editorial page said:

"Part of it was that we wouldn't change people's minds, and part of it, regardless of which side we came down on this, is that people would read into it things that are not true...People would think our coverage is tainted, and not just on abortion but on everything....Abortion is different from other issues. It is a hot-button issue at the core of everyone's soul. It will not change no matter what....It is not like endorsing a candidate or a bond measure. Not even like the death penalty or the war in Iraq....Rather than change anyone's mind, we would create another controversy....We take positions on other things and will."

Randall Beck, Argus Leader Editor, wrote a column on the day before the bill became law. He said:

"What could we say..... that would contribute to public understanding of this troubling issue - arguably the most divisive of our time? Should the bill contain exceptions for rape or incest - or more? Would it have been fairer to give all South Dakotans the opportunity consider an abortion ban, rather than merely the Legislature? Should the Legislature's obvious motive -- to be the first in the nation to challenge Roe v. Wade -- be considered political, moral or both? In the delicate balancing act between individual rights and moral standards, what is the right position? And, given the heartfelt emotions on either side of this complex issue, what would readers think?"

Beck also wrote that the editorial board

"agonized, we argued, we spoke passionately and personally. And at the end of two tortuous sessions, we concluded what you likely already know. Given the intractable divisions in our state and nation, nothing we could say on our editorial page would change anyone's mind - and it could well jeopardize the credibility we have worked long and hard to establish." 6

Essayist's comments: This decision by the Argus Leader's editors is vaguely reminiscent of the ban in Congress of all discussion of human slavery in the days before the civil war. The end result in both cases is that the public is or was unable to hear reasoned discussion.

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Monica Davey, "Ban on Most Abortions Advances in South Dakota," The New York Times, 2006-FEB-23, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  2. Carey Gillam, "Battle brews as S. Dakota abortion law nears," Reuters News Agency, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://news.yahoo.com/.
  3. "Is Roe v. Wade doomed? The abortion battle is heating up as states pass anti-abortion bills," ABC News, 2006-MAR-03, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  4. John-Henry Westen, "Abortion Ban Signed into Law by South Dakota Governor," 2006-MAR-06, LifeSiteNews.com.
  5. Chet Brokaw, "S.D. Governor Signs Abortion Ban Into Law," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-06, at: http://my.earthlink.net/
  6. Lynda Hurst, "Abortion showdown looming," Toronto Star, 2006-MAR-13, Page A3.
  7. Text of HB 1215: An Act to establish certain legislative findings, to reinstate the prohibition against certain acts causing the termination of an unborn human life, to prescribe a penalty therefor, [sp] and to provide for the implementation of such provisions under certain circumstances, at: http://legis.state.sd.us/.

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-OCT-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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