- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

The rising tide of proposed abortion bans by state legislatures is being propelled by changes at the Supreme Court and the chance that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, could be overturned in the next few years.

South Dakota state Rep. Roger W. Hunt, a Republican who sponsored a bill that passed the legislature last week banning nearly all abortions in the state, said the addition of two new conservative Supreme Court justices, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., was one of several factors he considered in pushing his bill at this time.

“Justice John Paul Stevens — a liberal — will celebrate his 86th birthday in April, so he is quite likely to retire in the next two to three years” and there will be another vacancy on the high court for President Bush to fill, Mr. Hunt said.

If South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican, signs the bill into law, which he has said he’s inclined to do, Mr. Hunt said he expects a pro-choice group such as Planned Parenthood to seek an injunction against it, eventually ending up in a Supreme Court showdown over the legality of abortion.

However, Mr. Hunt said: “Any litigation typically takes 2 to three years to reach the Supreme Court. By then, President Bush is likely to have made a third appointment to the court.”

The South Dakota legislation makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save a woman’s life. It does not allow exceptions for rape or incest.

Because legislatures in as many as 10 other states also are considering either abortion bans or bills that would trigger automatic bans if Roe is overturned, Mr. Hunt said several different courts would be involved in the legal battle.

Other states considering such measures are Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the pro-life group Operation Rescue and the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-research organization.

Mr. Hunt said that the Supreme Court often decides to review cases when there is a clash of opinions between federal appellate courts in different circuits on the same issue.

In Mississippi on Tuesday, the House Public Health Committee passed a measure that would allow abortions only to save a woman’s life. The bill, which the full House could vote on next week, would prohibit exceptions for rape or incest.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, said he would prefer a bill offering those exceptions. But even without them, “I suspect I’ll sign it,” he told Associated Press.

The most restrictive ban would be the one called for in a bill introduced in South Carolina, “since it would have no exceptions,” Operation Rescue spokeswoman Cheryl Sullenger said. Under that measure, an abortion would not even be permitted to save a mother’s life, she said.

Rebecca Wind, spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, said she agrees that the recent changes on the Supreme Court have been an impetus for the rise in proposed state abortion bans, but not the only factor.

“For the past six years, we’ve seen a large increase in abortion restrictions by state governments. A total of 195 were enacted between 2000 and 2005, and a fourth of those were passed in 2005 alone,” Ms. Wind said.

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