And so the attack on Roe v. Wade begins. Both houses of South Dakota’s legislature passed a bill banning almost all abortions, with the only exception being to save the mother’s life. Now the bill is waiting for the signature of abortion opponent Gov. Mike Rounds, who says he is inclined to sign it.
Only one clinic in South Dakota performs abortions, and it is operated by Planned Parenthood. The new law would send doctors to prison for as many as five years for performing an abortion. Already an abortion clinic in Sioux City, Iowa, serves many South Dakota patients. If the new bill passes, Minnesota clinics stand to get a lot more business as well. However, it is unlikely to come to that.
Planned Parenthood already has threatened to challenge the new law in court if it passes. Because the bill directly opposes the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the South Dakota bill will have to move up through the court system before it gets to the high court again: through federal district court, the court of appeals and finally the Supreme Court, if it even chose to hear the case. Passing the abortion law is just the first step in trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the only reason it is happening now is that many conservatives hope the two new conservative Supreme Court justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, will mean the difference between upholding the decision and overturning it.
However, upholding the South Dakota law seems unlikely, and a reversal of Roe v. Wade even more so, even with the new justices. The South Dakota law is far too restrictive; even many abortion opponents believe abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s health can be appropriate. The South Dakota law makes no such provisions, and the most recent Supreme Court decision regarding abortion clearly indicates the justices believe those exceptions are necessary.
Regardless of whether Rounds signs the abortion ban bill, the attack on abortion rights will continue. It is hoped that the court system will work and acknowledge the faults in the new law.