by Steven Ertelt
March 6, 2006
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed legislation that would ban virtually all abortions in the state. The measure prohibits abortions with the lone rare exception of when the life of the mother is threatened.
Rounds, a pro-life Republican, allowed a picture to be taken of him signing the bill into law but said he would refuse any media requests for interviews.
In a statement, Rounds indicated he expected the measure to be bogged down in the courts for years and not to take effect unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
"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," Rounds said.
"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," he added.
Pro-life groups are divided on whether the legislation makes for good strategy to topple Roe. Some groups support the measure but others say the high court is still 5-4 in favor of the landmark decision and that another case entrenching it as precedent would be a step backwards.
The law, which would put abortion practitioners in prison for 5 to 10 years and fine them $5,000 for performing an illegal abortion, is slated to take effect on July 1.
However, Planned Parenthood, which runs the only abortion business in the state, says it will file a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the measure. Paper are expected to be filed against the ban very soon.
Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood, previously said her group will sue as soon as possible.
"There will be a small time lag as we prepare to take this to the court and ask for an injunction to prevent it from ever taking effect in South Dakota," she has said.
Lawmakers are preparing for the long court battle and are working on organizing a legal defense fund. They say an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to help defend the bill and Rounds says pro-life citizens have already come to his office with donations to support it.
South Dakota lawmakers previously approved an abortion ban, but Rounds vetoed that measure because it would have wiped all of South Dakota’s pro-life laws off the books while the legislation was tied up in court.
"I’ve indicated I’m pro-life and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives. If this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into law," Rounds said last week after the legislature approved the abortion ban.
Once the lawsuit reaches the courts, lower courts are expected to follow the Roe v. Wade precedent and overturn the legislation. The key battle will be at the Supreme Court level — if the high court takes the case.
Pro-abortion groups have suggested that abortion advocates should not travel to South Dakota because of the ban. The state relies heavily on its tourism industry for jobs and lifelihoods.
About 800 abortions are performed each year in South Dakota and abortion practitioners come in from Minnesota to perform the abortions.