South Dakota Governor Wants Minor Changes to Abortion Ban

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

South Dakota Governor Wants Minor Changes to Abortion Ban

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 9, 2004

Pierre, SD ( — South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds announced today that he supports the measure passed by the state legislature to ban abortions, but he wants the bill changed to make sure it protects current pro-life laws that are in place should the legislation be found unconstitutional.

The state allows governors to issue what are called "style and form" vetoes — usually done when a governor supports legislation but wants changes to be made. Instead of a two-thirds vote normally required to override a veto, both legislative bodies need only a majority vote to approve the changes.

Members of the South Dakota legislature will return on Monday from a break and are expected to quickly approve the technical corrections.

However, one change that Governor Rounds did not suggest is to remove the health exception that was added to the bill in the state Senate.

Pro-life groups and some pro-life legislators say the exception guts the intent of the bill because it allows abortion practitioners to define when an abortion is needed to protect a woman’s health. They say it will allow virtually all abortions to be justified.

State Sen. Jay Duenwald (R) wrote a letter to Rounds and said that "without an objective standard for health [nothing will] prevent this exception from turning into a gigantic loophole." The health exception "creates a subjective standard for what counts as a risk to the health of the mother, focused on the intent of the doctor performing the abortion."

To prove his point, Duenwald cites Colorado late-term abortionist Warren Hearn, who told USA Today in May 1997 that, “I will certify that any pregnancy … could cause ‘grievous injury’ to her ‘physical health.’"

The health exception may not matter if the bill is overturned by the courts, and abortion advocates are hoping to do just that.

Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood’s director in South Dakota, said the abortion business will take the legislation to court as soon as Governor Rounds signs the bill.

Rounds supports overturning Roe v. Wade and the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Matt McCaulley, says he hopes the legislation will accomplish that.

Pro-life advocates have been split over whether the time is right to float such a proposal, with some saying every opportunity should be taken to attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade while others say the Supreme Court is pro-abortion and more must be done to change that first.

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