Feature

Abortion

The challenge from South Dakota.

Normally, the nation doesn't pay much attention to the laws of South Dakota, said Sam Howe Verhovek in the Los Angeles Times. That changed last week, when the state legislature passed the country's most 'œsweeping' anti-abortion statute in at least a decade. The bill, which awaits Gov. Michael Rounds' signature, would ban all abortions—'œincluding in cases of rape or incest'—except those deemed necessary to save the mother's life. It's a deliberate attempt to defy Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and split the nation. Now that President Bush has appointed conservative justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the high court, the bill's pro-life sponsors think they finally have enough votes to overturn the landmark ruling.

This is a big gamble, said Monica Davey in The New York Times, and it has 'œsplintered' the pro-life movement. Many pro-lifers openly wonder if the Supreme Court and the public 'œwill really embrace a complete reversal of Roe just yet.' These advocates think it's wiser to chisel away at abortion through restrictions that the public, and the courts, are more likely to support, such as waiting periods, parental notification, and bans on 'œpartial-birth' abortion. If the Supreme Court rejects the South Dakota challenge to Roe, it will only serve to strengthen the precedent protecting legal abortion. That's a real possibility, said Stephen Henderson in The Philadelphia Inquirer. A federal appeals court will probably issue a permanent injunction against the South Dakota law that the Supreme Court will refuse to review. Remember: The Supreme Court has upheld Roe more than 30 times in 33 years, and even if Alito and Roberts really are eager to trigger a political earthquake—'œa big if'—five of the other justices have repeatedly voted in the past to preserve Roe.

Cal Thomas

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