Nation watches South Dakota as Legislature passes abortion bill

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News. They’re all talking about South Dakota and the Legislature’s decision to send a bill to Gov. Mike Rounds that would ban almost all abortions.

In a 23-12 vote last week, the Senate passed House Bill 1215 and sent it back to the House for amendments. The House passed the bill, 50-18, sending it to Rounds.

Rounds has not yet signed the bill.

He will have until March 11 to sign the bill into law, veto the bill or pass it without his signature.

“I’ve indicated I’m pro-life, and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives,” Rounds said Friday at a press conference covered by The Associated Press.

“If this bill accomplishes that, then I’m inclined to sign the bill.”

His Roman Catholic beliefs come into play, said Rounds.

“I’ve never made any suggestions that I would not allow my faith to be part of the decision-making process,” he said.

“I think that’s an attribute that people would expect from any elected leader.”

The governor vetoed a similar bill two years ago, but Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, has told state media that the bill’s sponsors had taken care of Rounds’ concerns by fixing the contents of the bill.

The controversial bill would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota. The only exception would be if a woman’s life were in danger.

If signed, it will go into effect on July 1.


Hunt said that an anonymous donor has already offered $1 million toward any of the state’s potential legal fees.

Rounds said last week that others have followed suit.

“I can tell you firsthand that we’ve had people stopping in our office trying to drop off checks to promote the defense of this legislation already,” he said.

Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, expects Rounds to sign the bill.

If he does, she will fight it.

“We will ask the court for an injunction,” she told the Collegian in an interview Sunday. “It’s imperative that the women of South Dakota receive safe and legal abortions.”

Because the bill is unconstitutional, Looby believes that a judge would grant her request for an injunction, stopping the law from ever coming into effect.

“That’s really important for people to know and understand,” Looby said.

Looby is a firm believer in a woman’s right to choose, but regrets that this issue has gotten so much attention.

It’s a “disservice,” she said, to focus so much on whether a woman should have the right to an aboriton instead of finding ways of “preventing the need for it.”

Supreme Court

Supporters of the bill hope that the Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Samuel Alito, could provide the swing vote needed to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal.

Alito, confirmed on Jan. 30, has a controversial history with the topic of abortion.

In a 1985 memo he wrote, “I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued … that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion.”

However, when interviewed in January, he said he would approach the abortion topic with “an open mind.”