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Governor Supports Bill to Ban Most Abortions in S. Dakota

But the Republican leader wants technical changes to the measure. A court fight looms.

March 10, 2004|From Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Michael Rounds said Tuesday that he supported a bill that would ban most abortions in South Dakota, but he wants technical corrections before he will allow it to become law.

Rounds said his "style-and-form veto" of the bill was aimed at changing a provision that could otherwise ease restrictions on abortions during the time the measure was under consideration in the courts. If simple majorities in the state House and Senate agree to the technical changes, the legislation automatically becomes law.

The Legislature will be asked to approve Rounds' request for changes when lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday for the final day of the legislative session.

The measure would allow abortions in cases where a woman's health could be substantially and irreversibly impaired by complications of pregnancy, and if a woman's life were in danger.

It contains no exception for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota said that the proposed law would be the most restrictive antiabortion measure in the nation and that the group was considering a lawsuit.

"To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever passed anyplace," said Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood's director in South Dakota.

She said the group was "disappointed to learn Gov. Rounds has chosen to stand in defiance of the United States Constitution and the values of mainstream South Dakotans."

Rounds said the bill passed by the Legislature last month needed to be revised because it did not make it clear enough that South Dakota's current restrictions on abortion would remain in effect if a court suspended enforcement of the new language banning most abortions.

Rounds, a Republican who was elected governor in 2002, has said he supports repeal of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, which found that women have a right to abortions.

The South Dakota bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Matt McCaulley, says he hopes it will prompt the high court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade.

McCaulley said he was pleased that Rounds backed the measure.

"The changes proposed by the governor do not affect the substance of the bill, and [the bill] will provide equal protection to unborn human life in South Dakota," McCaulley said.

"The governor told me that he believes our efforts for the defense of these young South Dakota kids are important, and he will do his best to help," said a co-sponsor, state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck.

The governor said it could cost the state $500,000 to $1 million to defend the measure in court.

Maximum penalties for those who perform abortions or provide abortion drugs would be five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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