Monday, March 06, 2006

Breaking news: Rounds signs SD abortion ban

Associated Press Writer

Article Published: 03/6/06, 1:41 pm
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds on Monday signed into law a bill banning nearly all abortions, setting up a court fight aimed at challenging the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

The bill would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Planned Parenthood, which operates the state’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has pledged it will challenge the measure in court. About 800 abortions are done each year in South Dakota.

Rounds allowed a photograph to be taken when he signed the bill, but he said he would decline all media requests for interviews on Monday.

In a written statement, the governor said he expects the law will be tied up in court for years and will not take effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court upholds it.

“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,” Rounds said in the statement.

The Legislature passed the bill after supporters said the recent appointment of conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito have made the U.S. Supreme Court more likely to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. South Dakota lawmakers believe President Bush may have a chance to appoint a third justice in the years before the legal battle over the South Dakota law reaches the nation’s highest court.

The abortion ban would take effect July 1, but a federal judge is likely to suspend the abortion ban during the legal challenge. That means it would never take effect unless the state gets the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and wins.

Rounds has said abortion opponents have already started offering money to help the state pay legal bills for the anticipated court challenge. Lawmakers also said an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to defend the ban, and the Legislature set up a special account to accept donations for legal fees.

Under the law signed by Rounds, doctors could get up to five years in prison for performing an illegal abortion. The measure also contains language that the Legislature finds that scientific advances since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 have demonstrated that life begins at conception.

Rounds issued a technical veto of a similar bill passed two years ago because it would have wiped out all existing restrictions on abortion while the bill was tied up for years in a court challenge. The statement he issued Monday noted that this year’s bill was written to make sure existing restrictions will be enforced during the legal battle.

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