Good News for South Dakota?

Petition filing could halt S. Dakota abortion ban

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – South Dakota abortion rights supporters said they will file a petition on Tuesday to halt – at least temporarily – a new ban on abortion in the state, which became law in March as a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion.

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families said it had obtained nearly 38,000 signatures on a petition aimed at repealing an abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Mike Rounds on March 6.

The petition would be filed with the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday afternoon, and if at least 16,728 signatures are certified as valid, the scheduled July 1 implementation of the ban would be nullified and voters would be allowed to decide the issue at the ballot box in November.

“This law is just not feasible and is just very extreme,” said Dr. Maria Bell, an obstetrician who helped sponsor the petition drive, in a press conference.

The South Dakota measure is considered one of the most restrictive in the United States. It bans nearly all abortions, even when pregnancies result from incest or rape. The law says that if a woman’s life is in jeopardy, doctors must try to save the fetus as well as the woman. Doctors who perform an abortion could receive a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.

About 1,200 volunteers circulated copies of the petition around the state, and the coalition said it had signatures from all 66 counties in South Dakota. Thousands of Democrats and Republicans alike signed onto the petition, which calls on the state to allow voters to decide the issue.

“The people of South Dakota…do not support this extreme ban,” said Jan Nicolay, a former Republican state representative and co-chair of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families.

Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League, a national anti-abortion organization, said he expected the petition to be approved but that voters would support the abortion ban.

American Life League has already started campaigning to keep the measure alive, holding forums and distributing literature throughout the state.

“We have been fighting for just this sort of law for 26 years. It (the repeal effort) will be soundly defeated,” Sedlak said.

The ban’s supporters have said they want the law to be challenged in court so it can make its way to a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. They hope the law will help overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

As most of you know, this is a painful issue for me as I grew up in South Dakota and it hurt a lot to have the entire state judged based on a law that didn’t go through the people of South Dakota. South Dakota has always been split evenly over the abortion issue, but polls showed that more than 50% of SD residents did not support this law, as there were no exceptions for rape, incest or danger to the mother’s health.

I’m proud that the residents of my home state stepped up so effectively and resolutely to challenge this unconstitutional law.

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