by Steven Ertelt
June 26, 2006
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — The two major political parties in South Dakota are divided on a November ballot initiative sponsored by abortion advocates asking state voters to overturn a state abortion ban. The ban prohibits abortions in all cases with the exception of extremely rare circumstances when its necessary to save the life of the mother.
At their state convention on Saturday, Democrats decided that voting on the abortion ban is a matter of individual conscience and that members of the party should make up their own mind on the initiative.
Rep. Dale Hargens of Miller, the House Democratic leader, said party members shouldn’t be told how to vote.
"We encourage you to vote your conscience," he told the Associated Press. "We’re not telling you how to vote."
The decision reflects a split in the party, which is less pro-abortion in South Dakota than in other states. When the state legislature signed off on the measure earlier this year, some Democrats supported the bill while others opposed it.
A Democrat was one of the lead sponsors of the bill in the House but some Democratic state lawmakers have helped the collection of pro-abortion groups that pressed to take the ban to the voters.
"There is no consensus in our party on this issue," Dave Mitchell, a Democratic delegate from Davison County, told AP. "We’re divided right down the middle."
The non-position on the ballot proposal contrasts with the state Republican party. Members of the GOP, at their convention the day before, endorsed the abortion ban and called on state voters to support it at the polls.
Republicans also defeated a proposal saying that members of both parties may have problems with the language of the ban, which prohibits abortions in cases of rape or incest.
Supporters of the abortion ban hope voters will back it and that it will eventually be used to topple the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that allowed virtually all abortions.
Should voters uphold the abortion ban, Planned Parenthood, which runs the only abortion business in the state and led the signature-gathering effort, could still take the measure to court and prevent its enforcement.
Abortion advocates needed 17,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot and they turned in more than 30,000 to Secretary of State Chris Nelson.
Governor Mike Rounds, a pro-life Republican, signed the ban in March and it was slated to take effect on July 1, but that will be postponed until South Dakota voters weigh in.
The Senate voted 23-12 and the House of Representatives 50-18 for the ban.