South Dakota Panel Backs Pro-Life Bill Banning Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Panel Backs Pro-Life Bill Banning Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 6, 2004

Pierre, SD ( — South Dakota lawmakers in a state House committee overwhelmingly passed a pro-life bill late Thursday evening that will ban virtually all abortions in the state. Should the legislation win the approval of the full legislature and be signed by the governor, it will be taken to court and some worry it will be declared unconstitutional.

The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee approved House Bill 1191 on an 11 to 2 vote after four hours of contentious debate.

Several women who have had abortions urged lawmakers to ban abortions, and described the guilt and remorse they had after the abortion decision.

According to the Associated Press, some of the women said they attempted suicide following their abortions and others told of friends who had killed themselves afterwards because of the pain and despair of their abortion.

"These people are here from all across the country because they view us as the horse to ride all the way to the United States Supreme Court," Rep. Mel Olson, D-Mitchell, said, referring to a standing room only crowd made up of testifiers from South Dakota and several other states.

Several doctors and attorneys also made their case for the bill to members of the committee.

Abortion advocates say the legislation is unconstitutional and would cost the state as much as one million dollars to defend the pro-life bill in court. However, state House Republican Leader Bill Peterson of Sioux Falls responded that a price tag can’t be placed on the value of human life.

Many pro-life advocates agree that, if taken to court, the bill could wind up at the Supreme Court. One there, a pro-abortion majority will almost assuredly strike down the law.

Some pro-life groups reluctantly say the legislation should wait until a pro-life majority is in place and the prospects for overturning the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision are more realistic. The current court has renewed its position in favor of legal abortion by a 6-3 margin and two more pro-life justices would be necessary to produce a pro-life majority.

The need for pro-life justices has been cited as key reason for reelection President George. W. Bush. The leading Democratic presidential candidate, Massachusetts senator John Kerry, has already said he will only appoint judicial nominees who favor the Roe decision.

Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, confirmed that her group would challenge the legislation in court if passed.

"Lawyers I’ve talked to said it has no chance of being upheld in court," Looby said.

The bill says abortion harms women and the hope is that the evidence presented will convince courts that this is the case.

State Rep. Matt McCaulley (R), the lead sponsor of the bill, said the legislation defines life beginning at conception and seeks to challenge the notion in Roe that the court did not know when life begins.

Gov. Mike Rounds, who is pro-life, agrees the legislation would likely be declared unconstitutional. He has not indicated whether he would sign the bill.

Under the bill, any abortion practitioner who performs an illegal abortion would be subject to a $5,000 fine and a maximum of five years in prison.

In 2002, 826 abortions were performed in South Dakota and the Planned Parenthood business in Sioux Falls performed 815 of them.

A copy of this bill can be found at