Other states may follow South Dakota on abortion banby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are working to copy South Dakota's ban on most abortions. Republican Gov. Mike Rounds signed the ban into law earlier this month, making South Dakota the first state to outlaw abortion. It's too early to tell how many bills in other states will become law, but even some abortion rights supporters say the right to abortion has been weakened, whether or not the bans are upheld by the courts.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — South Dakota's law bans all abortions except in cases when a woman needs the procedure to save her life. Bills introduced in seven other states take a similar approach. Legislation in Georgia and Ohio is even more restrictive, with no exceptions.
Back in 1991, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill that would ban most abortions, but then-Gov. Buddy Roemer vetoed it. The legislature overrode the veto, but a federal appeals court struck the law down.
This year the Louisiana legislative session begins March 27. Republican Rep. Tim Burns has introduced a bill identical to the 1991 law. It bans abortions except to save the life of the pregnant woman or if the woman was a victim of rape or incest. Burns says it's time to try again.
"We need to do the test case legislation to see if the mood has changed any in the country and if the new additions to the Supreme Court has changed how they view this issue," says Burns.
Lawmakers like Burns who want to eliminate legalized abortion admit they want to directly challenge to Roe vs. Wade, the case that legalized abortions.
Not every conservative believes the timing is right though. Even South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds says he doesn't believe an outright ban will survive a Supreme Court challenge. Rounds has said repeatedly a better strategy is to chip away at abortion rights.
"I believe that the best way to take care of Roe versus Wade is one step at a time a methodical process of taking it apart step by step," says Rounds.
Some on the other side of the abortion issue say the chipping away strategy is working for abortion rights opponents.
NARAL pro-choice spokeswoman Nancy Keenan says South Dakota and Mississippi are two states that each have only one clinic where abortions are performed. She says 87 percent of the counties in the United States do not have clinics where women can get an abortion. Keenan blames the chipping away approach. She says even if Roe vs. Wade survives the frontal assault from South Dakota-style bans, the restrictions will remain.
"It will be a shell of itself because they have also held all of the restrictions," says Keenan. "Even though Roe stands they have made it virtually impossible to have women access abortion care. They have in essence by state restrictions eviscerate Roe both the spirit and the intent of Roe."
Opponents of the South Dakota ban like Keenan have not decided yet how to oppose it. They may challenge it in court or demand a public referendum on whether to repeal the law.
A new poll in South Dakota shows 62 percent of the people think the abortion ban law is too extreme. Fifty-seven percent said they would vote to repeal it. The poll of 630 voter was conducted by the firm Focus: South Dakota and it has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, abortion opponents are still using the chipping away strategy. Earlier this week a House committee approved a bill that would put additional restrictions on abortion providers. The bill would require doctors to have hospital admitting privileges in the cities where they perform abortions. It would also eliminate taxpayer money from being spent on abortions.
- All Things Considered, 03/17/2006, 5:23 p.m.