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Both sides rally over S. Dakota abortion law

Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate rallied Thursday in South Dakota, which recently all but banned the procedure.
Kate Looby, South Dakota director of Planned Parenthood, addresses a rally against the state's new anti-abortion law outside federal court in Sioux Falls on Thursday.Nati Harnik / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion debate rallied in two South Dakota cities Thursday, responding to their state’s enactment of a law that would ban nearly all abortions. Protests against the law also took place in several other states, organized by Planned Parenthood.

In Sioux Falls, where Planned Parenthood operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic, more than 200 abortion-rights supporters gathered in front of the federal courthouse. The speeches at times were hard to hear, in part because of motorists responding to signs that urged, “Honk for Choice.”

Kate Looby, state director of Planned Parenthood, told the crowd that their time and money would be needed to defeat the ban. Her organization has said it will either challenge the law in court or gather signatures to try and get it rescinded in the November general election.

“If the law is referred to the voters of South Dakota, we will need every single one of you for the next eight months to help us be victorious,” Looby said. “We are not going to allow a small group of radical politicians to make this decision for us.”

Legal challenge expected
Backers of the new law — signed by Gov. Mike Rounds on Monday — anticipated a legal challenge and are raising funds to help defend it. The law would allow abortions only when the mother’s life was at risk.

Ban supporters hope the case eventually leads to the U.S. Supreme Court, and provides the nine justices with an opportunity to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion. However, some anti-abortion activists worry the strategy could backfire, with the high court upholding Roe.

Across the street from the Sioux Falls courthouse, about three dozen abortion opponents prayed and held up signs of their own. Dawn Whaler of Sioux Falls was among them, along with eight of her 10 children.

“I think it’s great that South Dakota is leading this for the unborn, not only our own children in the state but for all unborn Americans,” Whaler said.

Down the block were six women dressed in black who carried signs such as “Abortion: 1 Dead, 1 Wounded” and “I Regret My Abortion.”

Barb Frick of Sioux Falls said she became remorseful about six years after an abortion she had in 1978.

“We regret our abortions, that’s it. That’s our message. We all have dead babies,” she said.

The rival demonstrations went off without incident, as did similar rallies in Rapid City, where several hundred people on both sides of the issue turned out, chanting, carrying banners and waving flags. Abortion-rights supporters circled the federal building while a roughly equal number of abortion opponents looked on.

Nationwide protests
The South Dakota rallies were among more than 30 scheduled by Planned Parenthood as a nationwide protest against the ban. The organization said about 80 people turned out in Bradenton, Fla., 90 in Philadelphia and 75 at the Supreme Court building in Washington.

In other developments:

  • The Tennessee Senate passed a proposal to amend the state Constitution so it doesn’t guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion. The 24-9 vote was the first step of many toward officially amending the constitution; the measure would go before voters if the General Assembly approves it twice over the next two years.

Abortion-rights supporters attacked the measure as a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

  • In Atlanta, abortion-rights supporters rallied at the state Capitol to protest legislation which they say could enable pharmacists to refuse to provide customers with birth control. The measure, expected to be voted on in the House on Monday, permits a pharmacist to decline to fill a prescription for a drug he or she believes would terminate a pregnancy.