On March 6, 2006, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds (R) signed House Bill 1215, banning all abortions in the state with only a narrow exception for procedures to prevent the death of the mother. Purposefully written to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade , this bill does not allow exceptions for cases of rape or incest, or to protect a woman's health. Rep. Roger W. Hunt (R), who sponsored the bill, claims that such “special circumstances” would have lessened the bill's impact.1 This bill makes it a felony for doctors to perform a prohibited abortion, charging them with up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.2
HB1215 prohibits “acts causing the termination of an unborn human life” with the stated intent of fully protecting “the rights, interests, and health of the pregnant mother, the rights, interests, and life of her unborn child, and the mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child, abortions in South Dakota should be prohibited."3
While the bill states that it is protecting the rights of women, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Senior Staff Attorney, Eve Gartner, explained that in reality “this ban is an attack on the women's fundamental right of privacy and their ability to make the most intimate and personal choice about when and whether to have a child. The U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed time and again the constitutional right to make the private choice to have an abortion.”4
Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota , and South Dakota plan to immediately challenge the ban in court when it goes into effect on July 1.5 Kate Looby, director of the area's Planned Parenthood affiliate, stated, “clearly, this is a devastating day for the women of South Dakota…it's distressing to know that this legislative body cares so little about women, about families, about women who are victims of rape or incest.”6
Proponents of HB1215 claim that it is an attempt to significantly reduce abortion rates in South Dakota . An attendant bill supported by many of the same policymakers and advocates, however, would undermine the education essential to preventing unintended pregnancies and therefore abortions. Should it pass, House Bill 1217 would restrict the content of sexuality education in South Dakota . The bill requires a focus on abstinence promotion and would prohibit “models of instruction based on risk reduction encouraging, promoting, and providing instruction in the use of contraceptive drugs, devices, or methods.”7 Since almost half of all nationwide abortions result from not using contraceptive methods,8 it is clear that information on contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy and abortion are needed in the classroom. Healthcare providers and advocates worry that the combination of the two measures put women's health exponentially at risk.
Rebecca Fox , assistant director for public policy at SIECUS said, “House Bills 1215 and 1217 dangerously contradict each other. To reduce abortions in South Dakota , people must be provided with all of the information they need to make healthy choices. Instead, the information needed to prevent unintended pregnancy will be unavailable. Young people in South Dakota will grow up without accurate information about how to protect themselves when they have sex and then have nowhere safe to turn if an unintended pregnancy occurs.”
- Evelyn Nieves, “S.D. Abortion Bill Takes Aim at ‘Roe,'” Washington Post, 23 February 2006, accessed 20 March 2006, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/02/22/AR2006022202424.html>.
- “US State Tightens Abortion Laws,” BBC News , 07 March 2006, accessed 20 March 2006 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4780522.stm>.
- “HB 1215,” 24 February 2006, accessed 20 March 2006, <http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2006/1215.htm>.
- “South Dakota Bans Abortion,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America News Release, Press Release published 22 February 2006, accessed 20 March 2006 <http://www.ppfa.org/pp2/portal/files/portal/media/pressreleases/pr-060222-abortion-ban.xml>.
- “States Open 2006 Legislative Sessions: Legislative Highlights from the States,” SIECUS Policy Updates, February 2006, accessed 20 March 2006, <http://www.siecus.org/policy/Pupdates/pdate0225.html>.
- “State Facts About Abortion: South Dakota ,” Guttmacher Institute, 2006, accessed 20 March 2006, <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/print/south_dakota.html>.