South Dakota Attorney General Says Abortion Ban May Face Legal Challenge
by Steven Ertelt
May 27, 2008
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — The South Dakota Attorney General has issued a legal opinion about the measures that will appear on the November ballot. Larry Long says the ballot proposal that is a second try at banning abortions in the state would likely face a legal challenge if voters approve it.
Last month, the Vote Yes for Life group supporting the ban turned in about 50,000 petition signatures to qualify it for the ballot — well above the 16,776 needed.
The first abortion ban prohibited all abortions except those necessary in very rare cases to save the life of the mother.
Voters rejected the ban and polls indicated beforehand that they would approve a ban that had rape and incest exceptions — essentially banning about 98 percent of all abortions in the state.
Vote Yes for Life put together a second ban with those exceptions and with a very narrowly drawn health exception that it says wouldn’t allow most abortions to remain legal in the way other health exceptions have on the state and national level.
Long’s warning about a potential legal challenge from abortion advocates is part of a legal summary of the ballot measure that is required by law and will appear along with the measure on the paperwork voters look at when casting their ballots.
According to an Argus Leader report, Long said the abortion ban could be declared to be in violation of the United States Constitution" if pro-abortion groups take it to court.
Long also points out that the state may be required to pay for fees for lawyers from the pro-abortion groups if they sue and prevail in court and he mentions the state attorney general would be obligated to defend the law.
Long issued a similar warning in association with the first abortion ban, that lost on a 56 to 44 percent margin.
Leslee Unruh, a spokewoman for the pro-life group, says she thinks this second ban will pass because voters said they wanted to prohibit abortions with the limited exceptions.
However, not every pro-life group in the state is on board with the newly proposed abortion ban.
South Dakota Right to Life says it can’t back the ban because it can’t endorse a measure that allows abortions even in the very rare cases when a woman is a victim of sexual abuse.
SDRTL President George Dummann told LifeNews.com the ban’s "rape and incest and health-of-the-mother exceptions imply that some babies can be killed."
Vote Yes for Life did not rely on paid petition gatherers and instead used an all-volunteer effort.
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.