Defending South Dakota's latest law restricting abortion could cost the state as much as $4 million.

Or it could cost the state nothing.

Organizations opposed to abortion say they plan to raise money needed to pay South Dakota's litigation costs against Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

"There's money that is going to be available," said Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, the prime sponsor of the bill that imposes more restrictions on women seeking abortions.

One potential source for the money is the state's Life Protection Subfund, a special fund devoted to supporting South Dakota's abortion laws in court.

That fund was created in 2005 and immediately received about $13,000 in donations -- and then sat dormant for years until the past few months. With new abortion laws debated and passed in the Legislature, another $5,000 has been donated so far in 2011.

But $19,335.04 -- the fund's balance on Wednesday -- won't come close to paying for a lawsuit.

In a worst case scenario, in which the state defends the legislation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and then loses, the state's legal costs could range from $1.7 million to $4.1 million, state Attorney General Marty Jackley estimates.

The biggest chunk of that cost would only apply if South Dakota loses and is required to pay the attorney fees for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Jackley said those costs could run between $1 million and $1.75 million.

The state's attorneys' fees could cost between $400,000 and $800,000. If the state must contract with outside lawyers, the cost could go as high as $1.75 million. But Jackley said the state is likely to keep the litigation with its staff attorneys, possibly the same two lawyers who have been defending South Dakota's 2005 abortion law in court.

Expenses related to securing testimony from expert witnesses could add $250,000 to $500,000, and other expenses are an estimated $100,000.

Defenders of HB1217 said their movement will be able to secure donations to the Life Protection Subfund to pay those costs.

"Any time you're talking about litigation like this, you know there's going to be a need for funding," said Chris Hupke, president of the South Dakota Family Policy Council. "We've proven in the past we have the ability to raise those funds."

In 2006, the ballot committee defending the state's abortion ban in a public referendum raised almost $3 million. In 2008, that same committee, VoteYesForLife.com, raised about $1.2 million in support of an initiated measure banning abortion.

There is no cap on donations to the Life Protection Subfund, raising the possibility of large donations from wealthy individuals or organizations.

Also unlike donations to political campaigns, money given to the Life Protection Subfund can remain anonymous -- though so far, most donors have disclosed their names.

"If I got a notation in an envelope that sent me $400 cash, (saying) ‘I'm making this donation on behalf of the Life Protection Subfund,' I would have no way of knowing where it came from and I would do what it's directed me to do," said Paul Kinsman, commissioner of the state Bureau of Administration, which oversees the subfund.

The 2006 abortion referendum did see an anonymous large-dollar donation to the anti-abortion cause, which became the subject of a court case and led to a tightening of South Dakota's campaign finance laws.

Supporters of HB1217 have another option to help lower the cost of defending the law in court - providing non-monetary support.

The Life Protection Subfund hasn't contributed any money toward defending the 2005 abortion law in court. In fact, no money has been taken out of the fund since it was created.

But the state's costs in that lawsuit have been low because the Alpha Center and other groups, as participants in the lawsuit, paid the costs for many of the experts testifying on behalf of the state.

If that happens again, Jackley said, the $250,000 to $500,000 he estimated in expert fees "would be reduced."

The state has spent only about $50,000 on expert fees in the 2005 lawsuit, Jackley said, despite that lawsuit involving large amounts of expert testimony.

The plaintiffs suing the state will be funded entirely by private donations, spokespeople for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU said.

"Our members give us money that we use to do litigation around the country," said Sam Ellingson of the ACLU of South Dakota.

Both the ACLU and Planned Parenthood will use salaried attorneys from their national offices on the case.

"We are fortunate to have Planned Parenthood national attorneys on staff that would take the lead in handling the litigation," said Kathi Di Nicola of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, the lead plaintiff.

Both Planned Parenthood and the Alpha Center have also relied on pro bono attorneys in their court cases involving South Dakota's abortion laws.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or david.montgomery@rapidcityjournal.com

(12) comments

interested_party
interested_party

From the DENR website:

"In 1992, a statewide initiative passes that limits new large scale surface gold mines to a maximum size of 320 acres and limits existing mines ability to expand up to 200 acres."

From the Rapid City Journal:

"And Powertech got some good news closer to home this week when Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill that streamlines the permitting process for the uranium company by reducing state oversight and permitting responsibilities. Supporters argue that the federal oversight and permitting process led by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency offers public-input options and strict regulations.

Critics of Senate Bill158 say it removes an important layer of environmental oversight and eliminates options for public input with a state board that has local perspectives

Those arguments were unpersuasive in the state Legislature, however, which approved SB158 on a 57-11 vote in the House and 29-2 in the Senate."

Initiated law is a joke in failed red states like South Dakota.

Rickaroo

I know both sides are passionate about their views on this subject, however, this law comes at a very bad time. The governor and legislators say the state is broke, education is cut by 10%, but you're going to push this bill forward, knowing it could cost out state up to $4 million--that is absolutely ridiculous and outrageous! Why didn't SD just watch the legal battles over this issue in other states first, see whether this bill will survive a constitutional challenge.

RCSoDak-ian

All I see is in the thread comments are about how this is going to affect the everyone. Nevermind the fact that the unborn have no one looking out for their interest and this is the first time that it has happened and you all worry about fighting it over 3 days waiting period?

I have heard of plenty of women that have had abortions who regret them, live with depression, and suffer from the guilt of what they did. I have yet to hear of someone who has regretted NOT getting an abortion.

So selfish you all are about how your lives are going to be affected by this bill. Why not let it be and not fight it and let the little babies have a fighting chance?

Curmudgeon

I wonder if there will ever come a time when elected officials will RESPECT the voter and learn to live with the decisions the VOTER makes. I also wonder how these people can live with themselves when making decisons to drastically cut education and supportive services and yet waste money on nonsense the voters have already given an opinion on.
As long as there are illogical powermongers in government, I guess it will always happen... We The People don't count.

Infidel
Infidel

Defending (anti-)abrtion bill could get spendy for state: Not exactly what you'd call "news".

Beenthere2: The regressives only care about the unborn. Once you're born, it's no education, no job, no healthcare, and 25 years in prison if you smoke the illegal plant, and guaranteed, taxpayer subisdized cancer if you smoke the legal plant.

DisneyFan

Let's see, our current governor has made many promises. Specifically, COMMON SENSE spending and not wasting the tax payer money. If signing a bill that even the Governor knows will be challenged and will cost money is a smart use of his power, then I wonder what decision making skills he is using. Sooooo, we had to "tighten our belts" and make cut after cut after cut of many programs in this state. Yet, not even a problem that this will cost the state in the long run (and the other bill that is currently held up and being defended on our dime)

I understand that this is an issue that has two differing feelings. And I respect people's rights to have their varying opinions. HOWEVER, our state has put this issue on the ballot numerous times and it has gotten defeated. Democracy at work!! Why is our current leadership happy to ignore the will of the people????? I highly urge my fellow South Dakotans to show our displeasure at the polls! It is time that we show we are not going to take this anymore and our votes will send the right message.

I hope defending this case costs the State of South Dakota big - REAL BIG - big enough that Daugaard will have to dip into his precious reserves to pay for it! Then maybe (unlikely, but maybe) the Legislature and Governor will think twice before pursuing this ridiculous vendetta against women's rights again at taxpayer expense. If not, maybe the voters will finally wake up and throw them out of office.

BeenThere2

Govenor Daugaard: The people of this state have voted this out 3 times. Our local school just lost 11 of its 30 staff members because of lack of funds. By signing this into law, you've effectively denied our children a quality education inorder to force this yet again to another costly vote.

PLEASE DON'T DO THIS AGAIN! PLEASE! Invest this money in the children who are here and need it!

Leroy Brown
Leroy Brown

I appreciate knowing how much this will cost the taxpayers. Funny though, the recent story about the Journals own suit against the State over the closure of a courtroom for the Bear Country civil suit made no mention of what it cost the taxpayer to take to the SD Supreme Court. Silly lawmakers making laws that they know are unconstitutional. Silly Journal for taking something to the Supreme Court, at taxpayers expense, over something that has little significance.

Old Guy

I too think donors to a state fund for specific purposes should be identified regardless of the issue.

I also wonder if the donations will be as much as the sponsors of this bill think they will be from the big donors. There are a number of anti-abortion bills working their way through state legislatures. The big donors will most likely make contributions based on their analysis of which bills will have the most impact and have the best chance of withstanding a court challenge.

This bill IMHO has a number of flaws. Even one of our Rapid City legislators admitted he thought the bill was flawed but voted for it anyhow because it was the right thing to do. Voting on emotions does not make a good argument in court.

Centerfield

Defending this lawsuit is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money. I certainly think there are better uses for my tax money than this, such as economic development and education. I don't think this state has its priorities set quite right.

Granny

I really have a problem with contributions to this fund being anonymous. If things are to be done in the name of the state of South Dakota, the people of this state should know who is a driving force on this agenda. It is way past time to let this subject lay!

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