South Dakota Catholic Bishop Gives OK to Gather Abortion Ban Signatures

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 22, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Catholic Bishop Gives OK to Gather Abortion Ban Signatures Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 22
, 2008

Pierre, SD ( — The Catholic bishop in South Dakota has given his okay for Catholics in the state to help gather signatures for the abortion ban some pro-life advocates there hope to get on the state ballot this November. This would be the second attempt to ban abortions after an initial ban failed in 2006.

Some Catholics have expressed reservations about the new ban because it contains exceptions for rape and incest.

But Bishop Paul Swain of the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese says the ban is worthy of support because it moves in the direction of stopping as many abortions as soon as possible.

He said in a statement released Wednesday that sometimes the political response to the tragedy of abortion "may restore justice gradually."

He cited Pope John Paul II who said attempts to ban as many abortions as possible that don’t fall within Catholic teaching still advance the pro-life principles the Church supports.

"A Catholic may, after prayer and sufficiently informing his or her conscience, support this referendum under the principle of gradualism… petitions may be made available in parishes to assure that those who desire the opportunity to sign may do so," Bishop Swain said.

With just 30 days left to gather signatures, pro-life advocates have to move quickly if they want to get the abortion ban certified for the November ballot.

This is the second time Bishop Swain has spoken on the abortion ban.

Last month, he said it would be all right for South Dakota Catholic voters to support the ban.

The Catholic leader said the measure would ban so many abortions that it’s better to support it even though it doesn’t entirely conform with Catholic teaching saying that such abortions are immoral.

"Public officials can seek to provide as much protection as possible for the unborn," Swain said.

South Dakota voters previously defeated a ban that had only an exception to protect the life of the mother. Polls showed voters would have approved one with the rarely-used rape and incest exceptions.

He said voting for the abortion ban would promote the "gradualism" or incremental approach that seeks to protect as many unborn children as possible as soon as possible.

At the same time, he said that "if the time comes when exceptions can be removed, people have to work for it."

There were 748 abortions performed in South Dakota in 2006, down from the 805 abortions performed in 2005, the South Dakota health department recently reported.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported that just 1.9 percent of all abortions there in 2006 involved threats to the mother’s life or rape or incest as a reason for the abortion.

Women were given multiple choices for the reason for the abortion and 85 percent involved the mother not wanting a baby at the time and another 21 percent involved the mother not having the financial means to have a child.

The number of abortions to protect the woman’s life or for reasons of sexual abuse have dropped over the years.