March 3, 2006

Battle brews as S. Dakota abortion law nears

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - U.S. abortion-rights
defenders and opponents are preparing for battle as South
Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds considers whether to sign a state
abortion ban that advocates hope will lead to a national
Supreme Court showdown.

The Republican governor has until March 15 to sign or veto
a bill passed by the state legislature on February 24 which
would ban abortions in all circumstances. Amid wide
expectations he will sign it, abortion-rights supporters are
preparing lawsuits and warning legislators of repercussions
come mid-term elections in November.

"There are consequences to this type of absolutely
outrageous legislation," said NARAL Pro-Choice America
president Nancy Keenan.

Abortion opponents agreed that the South Dakota bill could
have a broad impact, but said it would favor their effort.

"We think it is very significant," said American Life
League vice president Jim Sedlak. "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

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision
established a woman's right to abortion, but activists on both
sides of the issue believe the court may restrict abortion
rights following President George W. Bush's two appointments.

The South Dakota legislation would ban abortion in all
cases and at all stages of pregnancy, even within the first few
weeks. Doctors who perform an abortion could be punished with a
$5,000 fine and five years in prison.

In cases where a woman's life is in jeopardy, doctors who
take medical action to try to save the pregnant woman must also
"make reasonable medical effort" to save the life of the fetus
under the law. If the fetus suffers "accidental or
unintentional injury or death" the law states it will not be
considered a violation.

The bill's passage follows a report by the South Dakota
Task Force to Study Abortion that concluded that "life begins
at the time of conception...including the fact that each human
being is totally unique immediately at fertilization."

It is that language, coupled with the abortion ban, that
abortion opponents say could help overturn the Roe vs. Wade

Planned Parenthood, NARAL and other groups pledged to fight
the law in the courts and at the ballot box. "You are going to
see a backlash to keep them from overstepping both freedom and
privacy in this country," Keenan said.

Other states are also moving to pass sweeping anti-abortion
laws, including Mississippi, which on Thursday passed a bill
that would ban all abortions except when the life of the mother
is in jeopardy or in cases of rape and incest. Republican Gov.
Haley Barbour has indicated he probably will sign the bill.