South Dakota Senate Kills Abortion Ban

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

South Dakota Senate Kills Abortion Ban

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 15, 2004

Pierre, SD ( — The South Dakota state Senate has declined to approve technical corrections made to an abortion ban bill by Governor Mike Rounds (R). The vote came shortly after the state House approved the ban that some pro-life groups say won’t prohibit many abortions.

After passing through the state legislature, Rounds 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, but the Senate disapproved it by a 18-17 margin.

Though the bill was initially hailed as an attempt to overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision allowing abortions, the state Senate earlier added a health exception that some pro-life advocates say gutted the intent of the bill. They worried the exception would 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 said the exception is not a problem and the bill should be supported anyway.

Abortion advocates opposed the bill and planned to ask courts to declare it unconstitutional.

Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood’s director in South Dakota, said the abortion business would have taken 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.