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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

South Dakota adopts anti-abortion law

Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill banning most abortions in South Dakota. (
Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill banning most abortions in South Dakota. (

South Dakota’s legislature passed a bill banning most abortions in the state. On March 6, South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signed the bill into law. The South Dakota ban states that the only legal abortion that could be performed would prevent “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” to the mother.

Opponents to the bill said abortion should at least be legal in circumstances involving rape, incest and a threat to a woman’s health. Senators rejected proposed changes that would have created exceptions in those cases. Senators also refused to put the proposed ban before the voters in the November election.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Planned Parenthood Minnesota North Dakota South Dakota (PPMNS) announced they would fight the ban in court in order to protect Planned Parenthood patients.

“This ban is an attack on women’s fundamental right of privacy and their ability to make the most intimate and personal choice about when and whether to have a child,” said Eve Gartner, PPFA Senior Staff Attorney. “The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed time and again the constitutional right to make the private choice to have an abortion. South Dakota is entering dangerous territory with this ban.”

Planned Parenthood is the only clinic that provides abortions in South Dakota. The clinic performs an average of 800 abortions a year in South Dakota, with a state population of 780,000.

The measure makes South Dakota the first state to prohibit abortion in nearly all circumstances. The sentence for doctors who perform abortions that are not to save a woman’s life is 5 years in prison.

Some pro-abortion advocates said that an abortion ban would hurt poor women the most by forcing them to leave the state. They would have to finance their travels to a state where abortion is legal in order to have the procedure performed. Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood director in Sioux Falls, said that women may be forced to turn to unsafe, and possibly fatal, methods of abortion if they cannot afford to travel to another state.

“I worry especially about women who don’t have the funds to travel to another state, women whose health is in danger, and women in violent family situations,” said Jane Redmont, feminist theologian and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. “I still remember the pre-Roe v. Wade days when I was in college in Ohio and the only way for a woman to get an abortion was to travel to New York State, assuming she could afford it.”

“It’s distressing to know that this legislative body cares so little about women, about families, about women who are victims of rape or incest,” Looby said.

“If a rape victim becomes pregnant and bears a child, the rapist could have the same parental rights as the mother,” Krista Heeren-Graber, Executive Director of the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, told CBS News.

“The idea that the rapist couldhave a say in the child’s life makes the woman very, very fearful,” Heern-Graber said. “Sometimes they need to have a choice.”

Many pro-abortion advocates fear the possible success in the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Center for Reproductive Rights published a report titled “What if Roe Fell?” predicting the effects of reversing Roe v. Wade. The can be found on the center’s Web site.

The S.D. bill was designed to create a national legal fight over Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. While all the media attention is being focused on South Dakota, similar bills are advancing in Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri.

A state legislator in Missouri has

introduced a bill that would make

“anyone who performs abortion liable for aprison sentence of 15 years unless the procedure was needed to save the woman’s life.”

Leslee Unruh, president of the Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls pregnancy counseling agency that steers women away from abortion, said most of the abortions performed in South Dakota are not the product of rape or incest, but instead are out of “conveniences.”

Unruh said, “I believe most South Dakota women want the state to ban

abortion, and many who have had abortions wish someone would have stopped them.”

“It is time for the South Dakota legislature to deal with this issue and protect the lives and rights of unborn children,” said Senator Julie Bartling, the bill’s main sponsor.

North Carolina has an abortion ban on the books. However, finding it unconstitutional, the state does not enforce it.

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