SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota is suddenly in the vanguard of the movement to overturn Roe v. Wade, but it is a role that has been decades in the making.
Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing the right to choose abortion, the state Legislature has become increasingly dominated by lawmakers from both parties promoting what they see as traditional family values. In the 1990s, South Dakota's Democrats dropped abortion rights from their party platform.
The conservative shift culminated last week in the passage of a bill to outlaw nearly all abortions, a measure aimed ultimately at getting Roe v. Wade overturned.
The ban sailed through the House and Senate, and Governor Mike Rounds, a Republican, has said he is inclined to sign the measure, which would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless needed to save the woman's life. The bill would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.
The legislation passed as some activists believe that the US Supreme Court may be more willing than ever to abandon Roe v. Wade, now that conservatives John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. are on the bench and 85-year-old John Paul Stevens might be close to retiring.
Antiabortion activist Leslee Unruh of Sioux Falls said support for the proposal began gathering long before Roberts and Alito were nominated. She said the issue took on urgency in recent months because term limits will soon force some key lawmakers from office.
''I know the inner workings of the Legislature and the personalities, and I know it had to be this year," Unruh said.
For the most part, Republicans have dominated the State House since the 1970s. The last Democratic governor left office in 1978, and Republicans enjoy a 51-to-19 majority in the House and a 25-to-10 advantage in the Senate.
South Dakota has just one abortion clinic, and it performs about 800 abortions a year. Planned Parenthood, which operates the clinic, has said it will sue over the bill.