PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota House passed a bill 45-25 on Wednesday that would ban most abortions in the state, although voters would have the final word on the issue.
An abortion ban that cleared the 2006 Legislature was pummeled by voters in November for not including exceptions for rape, incest and women's health.
This year's measure would allow those exceptions if women and their doctors comply with strict requirements.
If the legislation also passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Mike Rounds, its fate again will be decided at the polls. A provision of the bill would place it on the 2008 general election ballot.
Rep. Gordon Howie, R-Rapid City, said the measure would protect the rights of women and "the innocent."
"The most innocent I speak of are the unborn children whose lives are terminated by the act of abortion. The most vulnerable are the women who are the living victims of abortion," he said.
Howie and others supporters hope it can draw the U.S. Supreme Court to rethink its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. They argue that science now can prove that life begins at conception and that abortion ends a complete human being.
HB1293 would allow abortions only in cases of rape, incest, a threat of severe injury to a woman's health and to save a woman's life.
The bill would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doing an illegal abortion. Women who get the abortions, however, could not be prosecuted.
Before abortions could be done on women claiming rape or incest, doctors would have to obtain copies of those reports from police. If women have not reported those incidents, doctors or their employees would have to inform the women that they must go to police before abortions are allowed; the doctors also would have to immediately report the rape or incest in those instances.
Doctors also would have to collect DNA samples for police from the woman and the embryo or fetus.
The bill would not make it illegal to help a pregnant woman get an abortion in another state where the procedure is allowed.
Opponents said the bill is unconstitutional, adding that state voters spoke loudly in November when they rejected the previous ban. That measure, however, did not contain exceptions for health, rape or incest.
Rep. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, said in Wednesday's debate that the legislation is nothing more than a political statement and would serve no useful purpose.
"It won't save even one life or help one person," she said.