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Liberty Belle

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Senate passes abortion ban
By Celeste Calvitto, Journal Staff Writer


PIERRE - Before the eyes of the nation and a standing-room-only gallery, the South Dakota Senate on Wednesday voted 23-12 to ban nearly all abortions.

HB1215 must go back to the House, which has already passed it, because it was amended earlier this week in a Senate committee to say that “due process of law under the Constitution of South Dakota applies equally to born and unborn human beings.”

After the two versions of the bill are reconciled, it would await Gov. Mike Rounds’ signature.

“It is the time for the South Dakota Legislature to deal with this issue,” Sen. Julie Bartling, D-Burke, a chief sponsor of HB1215, said during the Senate debate. “There is a movement across this country on the wishes to save and protect the life of the unborn.”

South Dakota would be the first state in the country to take such an action. But the road to becoming law, and to a challenge of Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to have an abortion — will be a long one.

South Dakota Planned Parenthood director Kate Looby, who called the vote “devastating for women and families of South Dakota,” predicted that there will be an injunction against HB1215 immediately after Rounds signs it — if he does.

Rounds said last week that he doesn’t comment on bills until they reach his desk because there could be changes. His spokesman, Mark Johnston, reiterated that position after the vote. Rounds is a longtime abortion opponent, but he vetoed a similar bill on a technicality in 2004.

Lawmakers debated whether South Dakota should lay the groundwork for a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

“The Supreme Court has undergone a bit of a change,” Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, referring to the appointments of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the court.

Greenfield, who is also the director of South Dakota Right to Life, said, “There are still five pro-Roe justices, but I hold out hope they will hear it. It is a calculated risk, to be sure, but I believe it a fight worth fighting.”

But Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, disputed that.

“It does not make sense for South Dakota to lead the charge on this issue when we know the outcome,” he said. “I applaud the honesty of the bill, but I cannot agree that such a direct challenge is a wise thing for South Dakota. We should not be passing bills when we know it is unconstitutional.”

The Senate action came after four amendments failed, among them exceptions to the abortion ban for victims of rape and incest.

“To require a woman who has been savaged to carry the result of an attack is another savage act unworthy of South Dakota,” Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, said.

“I respect both sides of the debate, but without rape and incest exceptions, I cannot vote for it,” Sen. J.P. Duniphan, R-Rapid City, said.

Knudson talked about a scenario where a rape victim with a husband and a family “would be subjected to nine months of carrying and delivering a product of rape and violence.”

“Whatever was left of that happy family life has undoubtedly evaporated in those long, nine, unhappy months,” Knudson said. “I will have none of this.”

Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, spoke against the amendment.

“Rape is a violent act, one that we should and do punish severely,” he said. “But life is something we have a sworn responsibility to protect, and we don’t treat any one group of lives as less important than another. These are equally innocent souls that have no chance to stand and defend themselves. Only we can do that for them.”

An amendment offered by Knudson to allow abortion to protect the health of the mother also failed.

“This is a tragic mistake and imposes an unfair burden on women,” Knudson said.

But Schoenbeck said the amendment is “the equivalent of a poison pill, in legislative parlance.”

“It is an excuse to do abortions that would otherwise be prevented,” he said.

Amendments offered by Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell, to put an abortion ban before the voters, and one by Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, to create a fund for donations to offset the cost of legal challenges, also failed.

“This bill, without amendments for rape, incest or viability of the baby or the health of the mother, is an extreme bill with the heavy hand of government,” Sen. Tom Dempstser, R-Sioux Falls, said. “This is a hostile bill. This is now a bill that is abundant with deception.”

But Sen. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid City, said, “This bill is as honest and as straightforward as it can be. It just says no more abortions unless the life of the mother is threatened.”

“Am I extreme because I believe abortion should not be available on demand?” Napoli said. “Am I an extremist because I don’t believe abortion should be used as a means of birth control or because a woman can’t afford a baby? That doesn’t make me extreme. It makes me a man that wants to save babies, along with many of you.”’

HB1215 stems from the report of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, which Adelstein characterized as “terribly flawed and unscientific” and excluded key testimony. Adelstein, who was among the members of the task force who walked out of its final meeting in protest, has said that the task force conclusion that life begins at conception is based on religious beliefs and should not be imposed by law.

But Greenfield, who was also on the task force, said that argument is inconsistent.

“Pro-life individuals are discredited as being religious zealots, but clergy on the other side of the issue allegedly have credibility,” he said.

The House will likely reconsider HB1215 on Friday. It passed previously by a vote of 47-22.

If it becomes law, performing an abortion except to save the life of the mother would be a Class 5 felony, which carries a penalty of five years in state prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.

Contact Celeste Calvitto at 394-8438 or [email protected]
February 23, 2006
http://rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2006/02/23/news/top/news01.txt
 

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