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February 25, 2004

South Dakota Senate OKs Ban on Almost All Abortions

PIERRE, S.D. — In a series of dramatically close votes, the South Dakota Senate approved a near total ban on abortion Tuesday, bringing the state closer to issuing a direct and deliberate challenge to Roe vs. Wade.

The final vote was 19 to 15.

After an extended debate, the Senate first voted 18 to 16 to restore the bill’s original language, approved by the South Dakota House on Feb. 10. A Senate committee had stripped that language, which declares that life begins at fertilization and that the state should afford no exceptions to the prohibition on abortion except to save the life of the mother.

That vote initially was tied, 17 to 17, but at the last moment Sen. William Napoli, R-Rapid City, switched his vote.

“I thought the bill was a little harsh,” Napoli said later. “But as I listened to the discussion, it became apparent that if we’re going to do this, we’d better give it the whole works.

“In that last two minutes, it came down on me.”

With the original language restored, the Senate then narrowly defeated an amendment that would have allowed an exception for victims of rape or incest. But senators approved –18 to 17, with Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard casting the deciding vote — an amendment allowing an exception to save the health of the mother.

Rep. Matt McCaulley, R-Sioux Falls, who wrote the bill, said he would have to examine the amendment and its effect on his desire to have the law used as a challenge to Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. But he said he expects the bill to survive a conference committee and be signed by Gov. Mike Rounds. “I’m overjoyed,” McCaulley said.

So were many abortion foes in the Senate gallery.

“I’m excited to see South Dakota take an aggressive and positive step in saving lives in our state,” said Nicole Osmundson, director of Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls program that counsels women after they have had abortions.

She said she believes the measure “definitely has a chance” of overturning Roe vs. Wade. But others, including some longtime abortion opponents, were less optimistic.

“I fear passage of this bill will have an effect opposite of what its sponsors expect. …” said Sen. Jay Duenwald, R-Hoven. It will enable the court “to reaffirm Roe vs. Wade.”

(Information from Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Posted by Editor at February 25, 2004 04:05 AM

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