South Dakota Law Will Make Abortions Illegal

Republican Governor Mike Rounds is expected to sign a bill that would ban all abortions in South Dakota except those needed to save a woman’s life, making it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life.

The ban, including in cases of rape or incest, was approved Friday by South Dakota lawmakers. The bill’s supporters ultimately hope to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing the right to an abortion. Under the bill, a doctor would receive up to five years in prison for carrying out an illegal abortion.

Planned Parenthood, which operates the only abortion clinic in the state, has vowed to sue.Even though the bill has not yet been signed, supporters have already pledged money to defend the bill. Lawmakers were told during the debate that an anonymous donor pledged $1 million to defend the ban, and the Legislature was setting up a special account to accept donations.

“I think a woman should have a right to choose. [But] if this issue went all the way to the Supreme Court I think the Court would most likely overturn the women’s right to choose,” said Kimberly Williams, a junior majoring in sports medicine/pre-med at Howard University.

The legislation was strongly disapproved by opponents who said it would particularly impact rape victims and poor women. AP reported that currently, a clinic in Sioux Falls is the only place where abortions are provided in South Dakota. The closest alternative is another Planned Parenthood location in Sioux City, Iowa that is approximately 90 miles away.

"It’s a sad state of affairs that we have only one choice (for abortion) right now," said Charon Asetoyer of the Native American Women’s Health Care Education Resource Center in Lake Andes to AP. "But if you have to go out of state, the cost of making that trip will be prohibitive."

Many opponents and supporters of abortion rights believe the U.S. Supreme Court is more likely to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion now that conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito are on the bench.

Lawmakers said growing support among the people of South Dakota for abortion restrictions gave the bill momentum.Under the measure, doctors could get up to five years in prison for performing an illegal abortion. The House passed the bill Friday, and the Senate approved it earlier this week. If signed, it would become law July 1.

“This is a well orchestrated plan by the Republicans which I don’t have a problem with because they have a very good understanding of times and seasons,” said Akintoye Omoyeni, a majoring in African-American studies at Howard University. “They waited until they got two conservative justices, so the Court is ripe to overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision.”

A judge is likely to suspend the abortion ban during the expected legal challenge, which means it would never take effect unless the state gets the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and wins.About 800 abortions are performed in South Dakota each year.

Leslee Unruh, president of the Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls pregnancy counseling agency that tries to steer women away from abortion, said in AP reports that most of them do not stem from rape or even failed contraception, but are simply "conveniences."