March 24, 2006

Battle to overturn S. Dakota abortion law begins

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) - Abortion-rights
supporters planned to launch an attack on Friday on a new South
Dakota abortion law designed as a direct challenge to the U.S.
Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 33 years ago.

An abortion-rights coalition, South Dakota Campaign for
Healthy Families, said it would lay out its strategy to take
down the law in mid-morning news conferences in Sioux Falls and
Rapid City.

The Sioux Falls local newspaper reported that the group
would announce a petition drive to overturn the law through a
referendum in November. The group has not publicly detailed its
strategy, but participants in the campaign have said that a
referendum had advantages over a lawsuit.

"When you take things to the courts you don't have the
opportunity to engage the public in the process. You don't have
the ability to build a movement," said Planned Parenthood
spokeswoman Kate Looby.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, signed the
law, widely considered the most restrictive in the nation,
March 6. The measure bans nearly all abortions, even in cases
of incest and rape, and says that if a woman's life is in
jeopardy, doctors must try to save the life of the fetus as
well as the woman.

To get the issue on the ballot for the November 7 election,
abortion rights supporters must collect more than 16,700
signatures by June 19.

If they fail to get enough signatures by the deadline and
there is no further legal challenge, the law would take effect
on July 1.

A petition drive would fly in the face of the expectations
of abortion opponents, who have been counting on a legal
challenge to the law in the hopes that the case would
eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

With two conservative justices recently appointed to the
high court, abortion opponents believe they have an improving
chance of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that
established the right to abortion.