Booyah, South Dakota!

The sweeping South Dakota abortion ban is defeated.


Tracy Clark-Flory
November 9, 2006 1:36AM (UTC)

Excuse the inappropriate metaphor, but we feel like we've just given birth. It's been nearly nine months -- an emotional nine months -- since we first started covering the draconian South Dakota abortion ban. It started with heated debate over the bill; evolved -- or devolved -- to Gov. Michael Rounds signing it into law; until, thankfully, it was stymied by a campaign to put the ban on hold until voters could weigh in. Well, voters weighed in yesterday and rejected the ban 55 to 45 percent.

The postpartum effect is definitely threefold for Planned Parenthood, the only abortion provider in the state. "The most impressive thing about this victory is that it was truly a grass-roots effort," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "We had a coalition of men and women, faith leaders, business professionals and healthcare professionals that came together and sent a strong message to their legislators -- don't use our state to push an extremist agenda."

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In this -- slightly -- more secure position, it's kind of amazing taking a look back at the recent attacks on women's reproductive rights. The South Dakota ban was the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation; it outlawed abortion in all cases except for when it would save the mother's life (though the doctor was charged with trying to save the fetus, too). Proponents argued that even incest and rape shouldn't provide an exception -- after all, there's emergency contraception for that! (Right, just try getting your hands on some.) It was a concerted, all-out attack on Roe v. Wade.

The right's been putting up a good fight in other states, too. Antiabortion activists pushed parental notification laws onto yesterday's ballot in Oregon and California. Both measures would have required that a parent be notified before a minor could receive an abortion. But voters batted the measures down. Earlier, there was the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to revive an 11-year-old parental notification law. Of course, there was the Texas parental consent -- yes, consent -- law. And, don't forget the Senate's ironically named Child Custody Protection Act, which restricts relatives from helping a teen across state lines for an abortion without parental knowledge or consent. That's just the start of it.

It goes without saying, as big of a win as South Dakota is, the fight's not over. Leslee Unruh, campaign manager of VoteYesForLife.com, made that creepily clear: "We started something here in South Dakota." Next round, proponents will likely push a narrower, less ambitious ban. And while news of voters' rejection of the S.D. ban floated to the top of our wires feed at some ungodly hour this morning, so too did news that Supreme Court justices heard arguments over Congress' late-term abortion ban. You know the deal, stay tuned.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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