WASHINGTON -- South Dakota lawmakers yesterday approved the nation's most far-reaching ban on abortion, setting the stage for new legal challenges that its supporters say they hope leads to an overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The measure, which passed the state Senate, 23 to 12, makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The proposal must still be signed by Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, who opposes abortion.
The law was designed to challenge the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe, which in 1973 recognized the right of women to terminate pregnancies. Its sponsors want to force a reexamination of the ruling by the new members of the court, which include two justices appointed by President Bush.
''The momentum for a change in the national policy on abortion is going to come in the not-too-distant future," said Representative Roger W. Hunt, a Republican who sponsored the bill.
Kate Looby, director of Planned Parenthood of South Dakota, which plans to immediately challenge the ban, said that while she was not surprised, she was still a ''little shocked" by the vote. ''It's still distressing to know that this legislative body cares so little about women, about families, about women who are victims of rape or incest, " she said.
National abortion-rights organizations said that the South Dakota vote has set the stage for a new fight to keep abortion legal nationally and in the states.