South Dakota Group Will Head Petition Drive on Abortion Ban Ballot Status

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 16, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Group Will Head Petition Drive on Abortion Ban Ballot Status Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 16, 2006

Pierre, SD ( — After an unknown Wisconsin pro-abortion group was criticized for filing paperwork to take South Dakota’s abortion ban to the November ballot, a local pro-abortion group based in the plains state has said it would take over the effort.

A newly-created group called the Basic-Abortion-Rights Network filed paperwork Tuesday to try to get South Dakota’s abortion ban on the November ballot so state voters could overturn it.

Noah Beck Hahn-Walter, who created the organization, tells the Associated Press he will back down and allow a group called Focus: South Dakota to take over the campaign.

"Our current plan is to just let the people in South Dakota send their petition in," he told AP, saying he would help South Dakota organizers.

Jim Robinson, treasurer of the South Dakota organization, said his group will make a more formal announcement about the petition drive once larger groups get on board.

Robinson said his group would likely gather as many as 50,000 signatures, though only 16,728 valid signatures are needed. He indicated abortion activists will use both paid petition gatherers and volunteers.

Most observers have been waiting for Planned Parenthood, which runs the only abortion business in the state, located in Sioux Falls, to decide if it would just file a lawsuit to overturn the ban or try to take it to the November ballot.

Should voters reject the abortion ban, it would not become law, but Planned Parenthood could still file a lawsuit to overturn the ban even if voters approve it.

The abortion activists would need to gather the signatures by June 19 to qualify for ballot status.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson said the Wisconsin petition effort was legitimate even though the group is located out of state. He said the petition can’t be withdrawn but abortion advocates can file a new one.

The abortion ban, which prohibits all abortions except those to save the life of the mother, is slated to go into effect on July 1, but won’t if enough signatures are gathered.

Leslee Unruh, a pro-life advocate who runs a crisis pregnancy center in Sioux Falls chided abortion advocates for taking the ban to the ballot.

"This is a desperate maneuver to avoid a legal confrontation where the facts and evidence presented will overwhelmingly support enforcement of the South Dakota abortion ban," she said.

Governor Mike Rounds, a pro-life Republican who signed the measure into law, is up for re-election and he has said he does not plan to actively campaign for the abortion ban while he runs for office. He’s worried the Supreme Court, which is 5-4 in favor of abortion, will strike it down.