a bird and a bottle


Can it be?! Good News from South Dakota
February 21, 2007, 9:15 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, law, news, politics, reproductive justice

Stephanie McMillan Cartoon
(click image to see it bigger; cartoon by Stephanie McMillan)

The South Dakota state legislature today dealt a second blow to the anti-reproductive justice and anti-woman forces in their state, when a state Senate committee voted 8-1 to stop the bill’s progress. The bill came on the heels of the defeat (by 12 points) by ballot referendum of last year’s total abortion ban, and would have totally banned abortion in the state of South Dakota, with the usual narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the woman. But today’s vote sends an unmistakable message that even conservative lawmakers ares starting to understand that an abortion ban is bad for women and families (or at the very least, that such a ban is bad politics).

The Rapid City Journal (S.D.) has reactions from supporters of the original bill, many of whom backed down:

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, called abortion “a scourge on South Dakota,” and he called HB1293 a “noble effort.” But he also said the bill would not withstand a court challenge. “I do not believe there is any chance it will,” he said.

Greenfield, who also is chairman of South Dakota Right to Life, is not on the committee, but he testified as an opponent to the new ban.

Sen. Dennis Schmidt, R-Rapid City, is not on the state affairs committee either, but he led off testimony by supporters of the measure, saying the facts that formed the basis of Roe v. Wade have been proven “false and incorrect.”

Most of the committee disagreed.

Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre, like Greenfield, voted for last year’s total ban. Gray said he agreed with Greenfield that the bill would not survive the courts.

Senate Republican Leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls, another committee member, said, “The root issue here is the clear unconstitutionality of this bill.”

State Attorney General Larry Long, who helped draft parts of the bill, said he was neither an opponent nor a proponent of the bill. But he did point out problems with the bill. He said, for example, that a woman who conceives a child through incest and gives birth could be prosecuted for incest under existing law, but if the same woman, under the new law, elected to have an abortion she could not be prosecuted.

The area Planned Parenthood affiliate, which serves the Dakotas and Minnesota, was quick to react, releasing a statement quoting executive director Sarah Stoesz, who at this point must be battle weary:

“This ban was bad for South Dakota. We are encouraged to see that the Senate State Affairs committee respected the voice of its constituents enough to put a stop to it…. The legislation had nothing to do with the health and well-being of women. It was a calculated political move, plain and simple…..
Planned Parenthood is committed to providing women and couples with practical tools that truly reduce the rates of unintended pregnancy….We call on all those interested in preventing abortion to join with us in working to secure practical tools that prevent unintended pregnancy, such as comprehensive family planning services and education for South Dakotans.”

The downside? Today’s lone dissenter has vowed to introduce the ban every session. While it would be a huge resource suck and basically downer to fight this same battle year after year, after today’s humbling defeat for Leslee Unruh and crew, I’m feeling like we can take ’em.

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