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Reproductive Rights Fight

South Dakota lawmakers set stage for most targeted attack on abortion rights since 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling; and Bush's proposed FY 2007 budget features cuts to women's and family planning programs

By Jordan Smith, Fri., March 3, 2006

South Dakota lawmakers are setting the stage for the most targeted attack on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. On Feb. 22, state Senators passed legislation that would ban all abortions except those necessary to save the mother's life; the measure, which has already cleared the state House once, would make all other abortion a criminal felony. "The momentum for a change in the national policy on abortion is going to come in the not-too-distant future," State Rep. Roger Hunt, the bill's house sponsor, told The Washington Post. Proponents also succeeded in striking down all amendments that would have mitigated the bill's impact – such as an exception in the case of incest or rape; any amendment, or "special circumstances," Hunt told the Post, would unacceptably dilute the measure.

South Dakota already has stringent abortion laws – indeed, the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood is the state's sole abortion provider. Not surprisingly, the new law has angered reproductive-choice advocates, who are already gearing up for a court fight. "This ban is an attack on women's fundamental right of privacy and their ability to make the most intimate and personal choice about when and whether to have a child," said Planned Parenthood Staff Attorney Eve Gartner. "South Dakota's ban is the most sweeping abortion ban passed by any state in more than a decade. Planned Parenthood will go to court to ensure women, with their doctors and families, continue to be able to make personal health care decisions – not politicians."

Ironically, as challenges to reproductive rights heat up in South Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere (see "The New Texas Family Planning," Jan. 27), President George W. Bush's administration – seemingly clueless about the chasm between its anti-abortion stance and its repeated hamstringing of family-planning services – floated a $2.77 trillion FY 2007 budget on Feb. 6 that features a host of cuts to both women's and family planning programs. Among the cuts are a $3 million reduction in Title X family-planning funds, which are administered through state grants; a $138 million cut for international family planning programs; a $7 million cut in the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant; and a shift of $250 million in funding for state programs that support "healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood." Cuts to other family assistance programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (portions of TANF funding have traditionally been allocated to states for reproductive health/family planning services), will now fund a large part of the "healthy marriages and responsible fatherhood" programs.

The budget also proposed severe cuts to child welfare and child support enforcement programs. By contrast, Bush's abstinence education program is slated for a whopping $89.3 million raise in funding.

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