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S.D. senator changes vote, dooming abortion ban bill

PIERRE, S.D. (BP)–A bill that would have banned most abortions failed to pass South Dakota’s Senate March 15, when one member who had previously voted for the bill changed his mind.

The bill passed the House earlier in the day 52-16 but failed in an 18-17 Senate vote when Sen. Paul Symens voted no. Symens, a Democrat, had voted for the bill in February when it passed both chambers and went to South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds’ desk.

But Rounds issued a “style and form veto,” saying he supported the bill but wanted to see technical changes made before he signed it. Unlike a full veto, a style and form veto requires only a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass.

Symens said he believed Rounds overstepped his constitutional duties and ended up writing law, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.

Rounds, a pro-life Republican, expressed disappointment.

“I had expected them to pass this bill and move forward,” the Argus Leader quoted the governor as saying.

Many of the bill’s supporters believed Rounds’ changes made it more pro-life. His style and form veto asked legislators to change the bill so that if it were struck down, current abortion restrictions would remain law.

The bill was a direct challenge to the historic Roe v. Wade ruling.

Pro-lifers were 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 said, would only strengthen the ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. But other pro-lifers supported the bill, saying it was the right thing to do. Thomas More Law Center President Randy Thompson said there is no wrong time to “do what is right.”

The bill stated that life begins at conception, or specifically “when the ovum is fertilized by male sperm.” It also stated that abortion imposes “significant risks to the health and life of the pregnant mother” — including depression.

The bill stated, “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 included an exception for the life of the mother and for a pregnancy that posed a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” to the mother.

Doctors who performed abortions that did not meet the exceptions would have been committing a felony.

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