Petition drive to ban most abortions in South Dakotaby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
South Dakota voters could once again, decide if abortions should be banned in the state. A group is circulating petitions for a ballot measure in November. Voters rejected a more restrictive abortion ban in 2006. This time supporters say, the law would allow abortions for victims of rape and incest as well as to protect the life and the health of a pregnant woman.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — Volunteers for the Vote Yes for Life campaign, have been circulating petitions around the state since January. They must collect 17,000 signatures from registered voters by April first.
Leslie Unruh is a familiar face in the debate over abortions. She's been working to ban the procedure for 24 years and is again speaking out against what she calls abortion on demand.
"We have contacted legal experts all over this nation, and we've had 22 legal experts from our own state of South Dakota that have looked at this law along with our Attorney General," Unruh says. "We are giving the people of South Dakota what they want, based on the polling that we have done and the focus groups that we have done."
What South Dakota voters want, Unruh says, is an abortion ban with exceptions for the victims of rape and incest.
She says two years ago, South Dakota voters couldn't support a total abortion ban that only allowed for abortion to protect the life and health of a pregnant woman. 56 percent of the voters rejected the effort then.
Those against the new proposal to ban nearly all abortions say voters should carefully read the fine print in the ballot measure.
The proposed law would allow an abortion for the victims of rape or incest, only if they report the crime and allow authorities to take tissue samples from the fetus.
Jan Nicolay, co-chairman of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, is the spokesperson for the opposition.
"It is the cruelest and most callous approach to what it does to victims of rape and incest," Nicolay says. "It puts them through a bureaucratic process that is almost unforgivable in our eyes, in terms of those kinds of victims -- and then we victimize them again."
However those who favor the requirement say victims would not want to protect criminals.
Mary Glenski, a Democratic state representative from Sioux Falls, supports the abortion ban. She says nationally fewer than one percent of abortions are performed in cases involving rape or incest.
"I think that accomplishing the ending of abortion for birth control for example, would get rid of a great many of abortions," Glenski says. "I think percentage-wise, we're dealing with the vast majority of abortions that do occur."
South Dakota has the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation, and Jan Nicolay says voters already settled the issue two years ago.
"We have parental notification, we have a mandatory waiting period. In addition to that, we have abortions prohibited after the first trimester, Nicolay says.
South Dakota lawmakers passed legislation this year that requires doctors to perform a sonogram before performing an abortion. Republica Gov. Mike Rounds has not yet signed the legislation.
- All Things Considered, 03/12/2008, 5:50 p.m.