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Banning abortion the hard way

Abortion | South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds signs into law a bill banning most abortions

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds this week signed into law a bill banning most abortions. If ink could rise, the outrage pouring into print might flood South Dakota's famous Black Hills.

The National Abortion Rights Action League expressed its "shock to hear that any state has actually passed a law to deny women their constitutional right to choose altogether"-apparently preferring judicial fiat to laws enacted by lawmakers when it comes to abortion.

Columnist Molly Ivins, meanwhile, painted the South Dakota legislature as a pack of "wiggy" rubes: "Representing citizens from the great cosmopolitan centers of Rapid City and Sioux Falls to the bosky dells near Yankton, [the state's lawmakers] are noted for their sagacity and understanding.," Ms. Ivins wrote. "When you think 'enlightenment,' the first thing that comes to your mind is 'the South Dakota Legislature,' right?"

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Gov. Rounds thinks so. "In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," he said after signing HB 1215, a law that criminalizes abortion except to save the life of the mother. "The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them."

Like most Americans breathing, Gov. Rounds expects pro-abortion groups to challenge the new law in court and prevent its taking effect. Indeed, it was the new composition of the Supreme Court that emboldened the legislature to pass its second abortion ban in three years. (The first died after Gov. Rounds vetoed it on technical grounds.) "I think the stars are aligned," House Speaker Matthew Michels told the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 25.

But even people who would like to see abortion outlawed say South Dakota is reaching for too much too soon. Speaking with WORLD last month, Americans United for Life chief counsel Clark Forsythe called state efforts to ban abortion "imprudent in the light of compelling evidence that federal courts will immediately strike them down and invalidate them. While I sympathize with the goal," he said, "those efforts are simply premature."

For one thing, were the South Dakota ban heard in the Supreme Court tomorrow, the likely outcome would be a 5-4 vote affirming Roe v. Wade, with only Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas voting to uphold a state ban. Even then, the Roberts and Alito votes might be question marks. Mr. Forsythe argues that a wiser use of resources (including taxpayer monies paid to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and other pro-abortion groups when states lose cases) would be to focus on winnable battles such as parental involvement laws.

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