South Dakota House Approves Abortion Ban, Senate Consideration Next

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota House Approves Abortion Ban, Senate Consideration Next

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 15, 2004

Pierre, SD ( — The South Dakota state House has approved an abortion ban that some pro-life groups say won’t ban many abortions. The legislation originally banned virtually all abortions and was promoted as an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.

After passing through the state legislature, pro-life Gov. Mike Rounds (R) issued a "style and form" veto. Unlike most other states, South Dakota’s constitution allows governors to require the legislature to approve changes to the bill on a majority vote.

Rounds sought to ensure that current pro-life laws will remain on the books if the legislation is declared unconstitutional. The South Dakota House on Monday approved those changes with a 52-16 vote.

Though the bill was initially hailed as an attempt to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision allowing abortions, the state Senate added a health exception that some pro-life advocates say guts the intent of the bill. They worry the exception will allow an abortion practitioner to determine when an abortion is "needed" to protect a woman’s health and that all abortions could be labeled as necessary.

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.’"

But other pro-life advocates say the exception is not a problem and the bill should be supported anyway.

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 it is finalized.

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