PIERRE, S.D. (BP)–South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds sent a bill that bans most abortions back to the state legislature March 9, asking for minor changes while saying he agrees with its intent.
The changes will make the bill even more pro-life, supporters say. The bill is intended to be a direct challenge to the historic Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.
A pro-life Republican, Rounds issued what is called a “style-and-form veto” — an action short of a full veto that is used to seek minor changes in a bill before it is signed.
As the bill is currently written, Rounds said, South Dakota’s current restrictions on abortion could be struck down in court if the bill itself is struck down. Rounds said he would sign the bill if the changes are made.
State Rep. Matt McCaulley, a Republican who is the bill’s House sponsor, was pleased.
“The most important part of this is that Gov. Rounds has agreed with a bipartisan, supermajority of the South Dakota legislature and we’ll be moving forward landmark legislation that will protect unborn human life in South Dakota,” McCaulley told Baptist Press.
The bill passed the state House 54-15 and the Senate 18-15. If the previous votes hold, it would go back to Rounds. A style-and-form veto does not require a supermajority vote.
“The vote in the Senate will be very, very close, but the governor has given me his commitment and [has committed to] the sponsor in the Senate that he is going to work to ensure that this legislation passes through the legislature,” McCaulley said.
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the bill March 15, McCaulley said.
Pro-lifers have been divided on the bill, with some saying the Supreme Court is not ready to strike down Roe v. Wade. A defeat in the courts, they say, would only strengthen Roe.
But Randy Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, said the time is right to challenge Roe. The law center helped in the drafting of the legislation.
“When is it the wrong time to do what is right?” he said in a statement. “After 31 years and 40 million murdered babies under Roe v. Wade, it is essential that we continue to confront the Court with their immoral and lawless decision that has no basis in the Constitution, history or traditions of our nation.”
McCaulley earlier told Baptist Press he hopes legislators in other states would follow South Dakota’s lead.
In a news conference March 9 Rounds said he expects the bill to be challenged in court but doesn’t have a guess as to the outcome.
“I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I support the bill,” Rounds said, according to the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls. “I’m not sure anybody knows what’s going to happen in the next two or three years. … If there’s a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade, we should try it.”
The bill states that life begins at conception, or specifically “when the ovum is fertilized by male sperm.” It also states that abortion imposes “significant risks to the health and life of the pregnant mother” — including depression.
The bill states, “The Legislature finds that the State of South Dakota has a compelling and paramount interest in the preservation and protection of all human life and finds that the guarantee of due process of law under the South Dakota Bill of Rights applies equally to born and unborn human beings.
“… The Legislature finds that a pregnant mother, together with the unborn human child, each possess a natural and inalienable right to life under the South Dakota Bill of Rights.”
The bill includes an exception for the life of the mother and for a pregnancy that poses a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” to the mother.
Doctors who perform abortions that do not meet the exceptions would be committing a felony.
The bill can be read it its entirety at: http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2004/bills/HB1191enr.htm