by Steven Ertelt
December 17, 2007
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life advocates in South Dakota introduced a statewide ballot measure Friday that would ban most abortions in the state. After state voters rejected an effort that prohibited abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger, they have submitted a new one that includes rape and incest exceptions.
Media polls showed after the 2006 elections that a majority of state voters would accept a ban as long as it had those rare exceptions in place.
Now, supporters of the abortion ban have until April 1 to collect signatures from 16,776 registered voters to get the abortion ban on the November 2008 ballot.
A group of 13 people are behind the new abortion ban effort, including Dr. Patricia Giebink, an OB/GYN from Chamberlain who previously did abortions at Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls in the mid 1990s and is now pro-life.
"This is what the people said they wanted after the 2006 campaign," Giebink told the Associated Press. "And a number of polls since then indicate a majority of people believe abortion should not be a method of birth control."
"We have worked with a panel of experts to ensure this bill will make a good law. We went with what we did before, plus we made the changes that the people said they wanted," Giebink added.
In fact, a November poll by the Abstinence Clearinghouse finds that an abortion ban with the three exceptions should get the support of 55 percent who say they are pro-life.
According to its survey, 30 percent of voters say abortions should only be legal in those rare cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. Another 25 percent want abortions illegal in every case or only to protect the mother’s life.
Just 39 percent of South Dakota residents back legal abortion, according to the survey Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling company, conducted for the group.
"This is an area of interest for people, pro-life people across the state," Kimberly Martinez, executive director of the group, told the Leader. "We wanted to find out how people were feeling about the issue at this time."
Under the abortion ban, anyone who does an abortion in the state would be charged with a Class 4 felony, which calls for a $20,000 fine and a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Voters rejected the first abortion ban on a 56 to 44 margin at the polls last November.
But a prior survey by the Maryland-based firm Research 2000 found voters would be more inclined to support the abortion ban if it included exceptions for rape and incest, with 58 percent saying they would support such a ban and 30 percent saying they would not.
Had South Dakota voters upheld the abortion ban, Planned Parenthood, which runs the only abortion business in the state, would have taken the law to court. That could have led to a battle to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that allowed virtually unlimited abortions.
Backers of the ban say they favor a challenge to Roe to try to overturn the landmark decision but some pro-life groups oppose a ban until there are enough votes on the Supreme Court to reverse Roe. They’re concerned another decision to uphold Roe could entrench the decision for decades.
Currently, the high court has a 5-4 majority in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortions, but it is thought to be 5-4 in favor of Roe because of Justice Anthony Kennedy backing the 1973 ruling.
There are currently about 800 abortions done every year in South Dakota.