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South Dakota governor likely to sign abortion bill

Measure would ban nearly all South Dakota terminations

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Gov. Mike Rounds said Friday that he was inclined to sign a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota, the broadest measure to outlaw abortion anywhere in the country.

"I've indicated I'm pro-life and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives," Rounds, a Republican, said in a news conference from the state capitol in Pierre where the measure that would make performing an abortion a felony passed the state House and Senate this week. "If this bill accomplishes that, then I am inclined to sign the bill into law."

Rounds said he personally believes that a more gradual approach — with measures like parental and spousal notification laws and waiting periods — would probably be more successful at preventing abortions. But he said that he also understood that there were others in the "pro-life camp" who believe that a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding abortion, was the wisest, the only strategy. "Many people will never believe that this will not work, unless it is tried," he said.

If the governor signs the bill, which allows exceptions only for cases in which a mother's life is in jeopardy, in the coming 15 days, it will take effect in South Dakota on July 1. But leaders at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which operates the only abortion clinic in the state, serving about 800 women a year, have pledged to file suit immediately. They said they would seek an injunction to block the law from coming into effect until the court battle, which could last years, is over.

Two years ago, the House and Senate here passed a similar abortion prohibition. That year, Rounds issued a "style-and-form" veto, sending the bill back to the Legislature for what he considered a technical flaw. The language of the ban at that time, he said, could have led a court to block all other state restrictions on abortion while South Dakota fought the larger issue in court. When the governor sent a rewritten bill back in 2004, though, the Senate narrowly rejected it.

This time, Rounds said he has been told by the bill's sponsors that no such flaw exists. During his news conference, he said that he and his aides must now study the wording of the bill and be certain of that before he makes a final decision.