- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

From combined dispatches

Gov. Michael Rounds signed legislation yesterday banning nearly all abortions in South Dakota, setting up a court challenge of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down state abortion laws.

The new law makes it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless the procedure was necessary to save the woman’s life. It makes no exception for cases of rape or incest.

Mr. Rounds issued a written statement saying he expects the law will be tied up in court for years.

“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,” the Republican governor 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.”

David Bereit, executive director of the American Life League, called the South Dakota development “tremendously encouraging news.” He predicted the law and similar measures emerging in other states would “accelerate the appeals process” and bring the matter back before the high court.

Similar legislation is reportedly being considered by lawmakers in as many as 10 other states: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The South Dakota law’s legislative sponsor last week told The Washington Times that 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,” said state Rep. Roger W. Hunt, a Republican. “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.”

Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic, has pledged to challenge the new law.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed that Governor Rounds has sided on the side of politics rather than on the side of the women of South Dakota to protect their health and safety,” said Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood. About 800 abortions are performed each year in the state.

Lawmakers said an anonymous donor has pledged $1 million to defend the ban, and the Legislature set up a special account to accept donations for legal fees.

Under the new law, to go into effect July 1, doctors could get up to five years in prison for performing an illegal abortion.

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