Opponents of South Dakota's ban on nearly all abortions announced the launch of a ballot initiative Friday aimed at overturning the new law.
If the South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families collects 16,728 signatures, the law -- a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade -- will be placed on hold.
Democratic State Sen. Elaine Roberts said at a news conference in Sioux Falls that legislators went too far when they passed their bill last month banning abortions even in cases of rape and incest. The only exception is if physicians deem an abortion necessary to save the mother's life.
"The vast majority of South Dakotans are somewhere in the middle," Roberts said. "They have mixed feelings on this issue."
Proponents of the ban said they welcomed the challenge, and said the measure to reverse the law would fail at the polls.
"I know South Dakota politics," said Leslee Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls and a prominent antiabortion activist. "The people of South Dakota stand for life, for protecting an unborn child."
South Dakota is one of several states that opened the year mulling a strict ban that would contradict Roe vs. Wade.
Some antiabortion activists hope that President Bush's two Supreme Court appointments could lead the court to overturn the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established abortion as a constitutional right.
The legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill last month, and South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican, signed it into law shortly afterward.
As opponents and proponents each released polls showing a majority of voters siding with them on the ban, abortion-rights advocates were debating whether to challenge the law in court or at the ballot box.
Some prominent state Democrats were leaning toward a ballot challenge. This week they unveiled a bipartisan group -- led by a former Republican state legislator -- to move the initiative campaign forward.
Planned Parenthood, which operates the only abortion clinic in the state, also is involved.
"We don't want it to be seen as a partisan assault on the ban," said Jeff Masten, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who is involved in the campaign. "That legislation simply went too far."
Republican South Dakota House Speaker Matt Michels, who backed the ban, predicted that organizers would easily collect enough signatures to place it on the ballot because of what he deemed the state's minimal requirements for voter initiatives.
He also forecast a campaign financed by big-money donors on both sides of the issue that would saturate the airwaves of the lightly populated state.
"They're going to bombard us," Michels said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.