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4.14.06
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Politics and Economy:
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No Right to Choose?
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now Perspectives: Views on the future of Roe v. Wade

South Dakota has passed the nationís most restrictive ban on abortion, due to be enacted on July 1. The law does not contain exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, nor does it allow abortions that are necessary to preserve the health of the mother.

This new law runs counter to Supreme Court precedents, which maintain that states cannot put an "undue burden" on abortion rights.

Below, NOW examines views on the future of Roe v Wade from the American people, members of the legal community, and opinion leaders on both sides of the debate.

The American People

Research by Pew Research Center in July 2005 concluded that Americans believe that no single issue before the Supreme Court has greater importance than abortion. A Pew survey in July found that 63 percent said that abortion was a very important issue before the court; only the rights of detained terrorist suspects were seen as equally significant.

In July, the Pew Research Center found that only 29 percent of Americans believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, while 65 percent of the public opposed completely overturning the ruling. That is in line with surveys conducted by Pew and the Gallup Organization dating back to 1989.

While the majority of the public backs the legal right to abortion, there is broad support for certain restrictions on abortion. Polling has shown large majorities favor measures such as mandatory waiting periods, parental and spousal notification, and a prohibition on late-term abortions. View the report here

Opinion Leaders From Both Sides

Sharon Camp, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute told NOW that the new law in South Dakota is an attempt to push the Supreme Court into making a decision on Roe v Wade.

"As a strategy it does not appear that it will work. It looks like the law will go to a referendum this November and if it goes on the ballot then the law will be suspended until November. If itís overturned the ban will never take effect. If itís not overturned then I think the law will be appealed in the Supreme Court. At this point, if it came to the Supreme Court, it probably would not be upheld, Camp told NOW on April 11, 2006.

Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America told NOW on April 12, 2006 that as long as Roe stands, South Dakotaís ban cannot be enforced.

"Opponents of womenís health are betting that, with recent changes on the high court, the time is right for a head-on challenge ... The American majority, which supports a womanís right to choose, must wake up to this very real threat and speak out. As a nation, we cannot afford to remain silent," she said.

Judie Brown, President, American Life League, said in a statement on April 7, 2006 that she was disappointed that some pro-life groups did not support the legislation.

"It seems these folks are concerned that the South Dakota law is premature, that the timing is wrong, that it might cause more problems than it solves depending on how the Supreme Court handles it. That is, of course, if the Supreme Court ever gets an opportunity to address it," Brown said.

Daniel McConchie, vice-president of Americans United for Life, told NOW he believes the Supreme Court is not yet ready to overturn Roe v Wade. If the issue goes before to court too soon he says his mission to "get to the point where Roe is overturned" could backfire.

Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for Free Choice, told NOW she believes the law will eventually reach the Supreme Court.

"I personally think they will not overturn Roe in an outright kid of a way. But they will use South Dakota as a way of sending a message that any and all restrictions are acceptable," she said.

Click here to see Maria Hinojosaís web exclusive interview with Frances Kissling.

The Legal Community

Prof. Martha Field of Harvard Law School told NOW she does not believe the South Dakota law would survive a Supreme Court battle because of the current make up of court.

"The South Dakota ban is a way of re-raising the ban of Roe v. Wade. I think next time the pro-choice people have to make sure they have a pro-choice nominee on the Supreme Court. Right now Kennedy is the swing vote and he did vote pro-choice in Casey," Field said on April 11, 2006. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voted to uphold the right to an abortion in the Supreme Courtís 1992 decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Prof. Michael C. Dorf of Columbia University School of Law wrote in Find Law, a legal website, on March 15, 2006 that the new South Dakota law clearly violates Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Everybody understands that the real change underlying South Dakota's law is the recent change in the Supreme Court's membership. The South Dakota legislature is betting that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will vote to overrule Roe, whereas Justice O'Connor was, by the time of her retirement, a supporter of a constitutional right to abortion," Dorf said.

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