South Dakota Abortion Ban Battle Could Cost Pro-Life Groups Millions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 28, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Abortion Ban Battle Could Cost Pro-Life Groups Millions Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 28, 2006

Pierre, SD ( — Abortion advocates have just started collecting signatures in their attempt to get South Dakota’s abortion ban on the state ballot, but observers are already speculating that pro-life and pro-abortion groups could wind up spending millions of dollars on the battle if the petition qualifies and a November vote is planned.

Pro-abortion groups in the state have bandied together to collect the 17,000 signatures necessary to get the abortion ban on the ballot. If they’re successful, some say an all-out ad war will ensue.

"This election is going to be incredible. I could see millions of dollars spent," Terry Robertson, associate professor of political communication studies at the University of South Dakota, told the Associated Press.

"It’s very likely that’s what you’ll see in South Dakota," Sue O’Connell, communications director for the Montana-based Institute on Money in State Politics, told AP. "Nationally, you’ll see everybody who’s ever had an interest in this looking to see where they can help out."

Rep. Roger Hunt, the lead sponsor of the abortion ban, told Focus on the Family he’s prepared for a pro-abortion assault.

"We have, since the early 1990s, been pretty aggressive in enacting legislation regulating abortion," Hunt said.

Previous ballot issues in South Dakota have seen large dollars spent in a state that barely has half a million residents.

A 1998 vote on corporate farming saw $270,000 spent while both sides spent more than $1.2 million on a video gaming ballot proposal in 2000.

But spending on the South Dakota abortion ban may be limited because some pro-life groups are skeptical of the ban’s prospects.

Even if state voters approve the ban, abortion advocates can still file a lawsuit against it that could keep the ban tied up in courts for years. Some pro-life groups either opposed or took no position on the abortion ban because they say it will only be struck down by the Supreme Court.

That kind of thinking, combined with the limited resources of pro-life groups, may prompt some organizations to keep their limited funds in reserve and focus instead on Congressional battles in other states.

On the other hand, some organization will likely throw large sums of money in the battle to counter the hundreds of thousands Planned Parenthood can easily spend there. They may be inclined to spend heavily to avoid an embarrassing defeat at the ballot box in a state that should be more likely to vote pro-life.

Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington summed up that line of thought in comments to AP.

"There’s a sense that as goes South Dakota so could go other states and eventually the whole country," she said.