Wisconsin invades South Dakota

Wisconsin abortion rights group tries to bring S.D. ban to a referendum.

Published March 15, 2006 6:51PM (EST)

A Wisconsin abortion rights group filed paperwork yesterday to begin collecting signatures for a referendum vote ... in South Dakota. If it can collect 16,728 signatures by mid-June, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports, South Dakotans would vote Nov. 7 on whether to keep or toss the ban.

Wait. One can do that? Yep. According to South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson, "There is no restriction in state law as to who can be a sponsor for a referendum," he said.

The question, right now, is whether one should. "I think these people have jumped the gun a little bit," said Kate Looby, South Dakota director of Planned Parenthood, whose job I don't envy these days. "The people in South Dakota who need to be making this important decision have not made the decision yet whether it should go on the ballot or go to court. I think this is not something that can or should come from people outside South Dakota."

There's also the worry that such a referendum could backfire. When asked about the effort, state Rep. Roger Hunt, sponsor of the abortion ban, basically said, "Bring it on."

"I find it strange and interesting that some radical group in Wisconsin can feel they can tell the state of South Dakota what to do or not to do," he said. "The action initiated by a pro-abortion group in another state is going to galvanize people in the state of South Dakota even more," he said. "I think the people of South Dakota are pro-life."

Jessica at Feministing disagrees with Looby at Planned Parenthood; she's down with the out-of-state effort. "Is this really the time to get all territorial?" she asks. "Seems to me that we should be doing all we can -- it's goddamn crunch time." And, one could argue, what happens in South Dakota does not stay in South Dakota. Given that its architects have big plans for this ban, it could be poised to affect us all.

So: Gun-jumping? Carpet-bagging? Asking for trouble? Or is Wisconsin being the good neighbor who says, "You know what, I am gonna get involved"?

(Bonus question: Say, is anyone in Wisconsin familiar with said "radical" group, Basic-Abortion-Rights Network, based in Waukesha? 'Cause Google- and Nexis-wise, they seem to have a kept a pretty low profile -- till now. No one seems to have heard of them, or managed to get ahold of a rep for comment. Calling all conspiracy theorists!)

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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