South Dakota Abortion Ban, Initiative 11 (2008)

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The South Dakota Abortion Ban Initiative, also known as Initiative 11, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated. The measure would have banned all abortions in the state except for those performed because of rape, incest or to protect the woman's health. Doctors who performed an abortion in violation of this initiative's provisions could have been charged with a Class 4 felony, which in South Dakota carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.[1][2]

The South Dakota ballot question was one of three abortion-related ballot measures that appeared on November ballots around the country.[3]

Election results

South Dakota Initiative 11 (2008)
Defeatedd No206,53555.21%
Yes 167,560 44.79%

Election results via: South Dakota Political Almanac, South Dakota Constitutional Amendments, Initiatives and Referendums 1970-2010

Text of measure

The text of the measure can be read here.


Pro-life measures were attempted twice in the previous two legislative sessions in South Dakota. The first attempt was in 2006 when the state legislature passed HB 1215, a bill that banned all abortion except those undertaken to protect a woman's health. Pro-choice organizers then collected signatures under the state's veto referendum laws, putting the new bill before the voters in the Abortion Ban Referendum. About 56 percent of voters voted to overturn the ban, so it was rejected and never took effect. The legislature's bill would have assigned criminal penalties to those that performed abortions outside of the new parameters.[4]

HB 1215 was introduced by the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortions, which would "study and evaluate medical evidence, reporting findings, and make recommendations as to the need or any additional legislation governing medical procedures."[5] The task force included a total of four doctors and the husband of one of the HB 1215's proponents, Dr. Allen Unruh, a chiropractor. Kate Looby, director of the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood and a member of the task force said that the task force's final report, given to the legislature and released to the public, was altered from task force approved version.[6]

Timeline of abortion-related events in South Dakota

According to a timeline created by the Associated Press:[7]

  • 1980: Legislature passes law requiring a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion.
  • 1981: Dr. Buck Williams begins to perform abortions at his clinic in Sioux Falls.
  • 1994: Planned Parenthood takes over operation of the Sioux Falls clinic.
  • 1997: Legislature passes a parental notification law.
  • 1997: Legislature passes a ban on partial-birth abortion.
  • 1998: Legislature passes law saying pharmacists don't have to dispense medications that would be used to cause an abortion or assist in a suicide.
  • 2000: Legislature passes law prohibiting anyone other than a doctor from performing or inducing abortions.
  • 2004: Legislature passes bill to ban abortions. Vetoed by governor.
  • 2005: Legislature passes law that bans abortion if the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortions.
  • 2005: Law goes into effect requiring parents to be notified if their minor daughter has an emergency abortion.
  • July 2008: Law that requires doctors to ask women if they want to see ultrasounds before an abortion goes into effect.
  • July 2008: Enforcement begins of a 2005 law that requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions the procedure ends a human life.
  • November 2008: Vote on Measure 11.


The groups and individuals who backed the 2006 legislative bill were the main sponsors of Initiated Measure 11. Supporters included Dr. Patricia Giebink, a Chamberlain obstetrician-gynecologist who preformed abortions in 1996 and 1997 before becoming a pro-life advocate. The other 12 sponsors of the petition were: Leah Anderson of Sioux Falls; Rep. Mary Glenski, D-15; Debra Hoy of Gregory; Karen Nelson of Elkton; Nicole Osmundson of Sioux Falls; Stacey Wollman, D-34; Allen Carlson of Rapid City; Robert Fischer of Rapid City; Dr. Donald Oliver of Rapid City; Dr. Ann Church of Spearfish; Kala Kickul of Sioux Falls; and Rory King of Aberdeen.[8] The group is known as Vote Yes For Life.

The stated reason behind their desire to ban abortion was to "stop abortion from being used as birth control."[9] To that end, the Pastor Urgency Tour scheduled for February 26 through March 1, 2008 was held. The goal of the Urgency Tour was to "Rally 300 Pastors to collect signatures in their churches and get the people in their churches to collect signatures in their cities."


Arguments made in favor of the ban included:[10]

  • The initiative "does allow exceptions for incest, rape, and the health of the mother."[11]
  • Abortion is the termination of innocent life and should be avoided whenever possible.


The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families was the leading opponent of the measure. It is "a coalition fighting abortion bans in South Dakota. We are a political committee registered with the South Dakota Secretary of State and the IRS and formed in an effort to repeal HB 1215, the ban on abortions."[12] The Campaign was co-chaired by fourteen prominent South Dakota leaders. The group successfully campaigned against the previous two measures brought before the legislature.

A poll taken in 2007 by a Washington, D.C.-based polling company showed that 75% of South Dakotans believed there were alternative methods short of criminalizing abortion in order to reduce the abortion rate in the state. The poll also showed that 52 percent do not support the issue being on the ballot.[13]


Some arguments that were made against the ban included:[10]

  • It is "a dangerous government intrusion into the private medical decisions that affect how doctors treat women."[14]
  • The constitutionality of the measure has been called into question by South Dakota attorney general Larry Long, who takes note that if the law is passed and then challenged as violating the federal constitution, lawsuit costs to defend it will be borne by the South Dakota government.[15][16]
  • Studies that have been promoted in South Dakota to conclude that abortion harms women have been criticized. Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, said one report was filled with dishonest statements. "That's when I hit the ceiling. The report is theologically based, has patent untruths and misrepresentations, and no reasonable attention was paid to any amendments."[17]

Campaign contributions

Opponents to the proposed measure raised and spent more than double what supporters did. The opposition campaign, South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, received approximately $1.7 million in contributions and spent $1.6 million of it. Meanwhile, supporters raised $720,000 and spent $700,000 on its campaign to get the ballot measure passed.[18]

According to reports released in 2010, opponents of the measure relied heavily on out-of-state funds. The study, conducted by National Institute on Money in State Politics in Helena, Montana revealed that the largest contribution to the opposition campaign came from Planned Parenthood in Minnesota and New York. Additionally, 82% or $3.3 million of contributions were from out-of-state. For supporters of the measure, approximately 40% or $1.4 million of total campaign contributions came from other states.[19]


See also Polls, 2008 ballot measures.
Month of Poll Polling company In Favor Opposed Undecided
October 2008 Sioux Falls Argus Leader 44 percent 44 percent 12 percent[20]

Path to the ballot

Supporters of the initiative collected more than twice the amount of signatures required to put the measure on the ballot in November, and the measure was subsequently certified to appear on the November ballot.[21]

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading


  1. South Dakota Political Almanac, "South Dakota Constitutional Amendments, Initiatives and Referendums 1970-2010," accessed August 27, 2014
  2. South Dakota Secretary of State, "Historical Election Data," accessed August 27, 2014
  3. Deja-vu in South Dakota, Chicago Tribune, May 27, 2008
  4. Rape, incest, health exceptions in new ban, Argus Leader, Dec. 15, 2007
  5. South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortions (dead link)
  6. [1]
  7. Associated Press, "Timeline of abortion developments in South Dakota," October 18, 2008
  8. Petition effort seeks to ban most abortions, Associated Press, 12/15/07
  9. Vote Yes For Life website
  10. 10.0 10.1 South Dakota Secretary of State, "2008 South Dakota Ballot Question pamphlet," accessed August 27, 2014
  11. Keloland TV, "KELO-TV/Argus Leader Poll: Measure 11 React," October 26, 2008
  12. South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families (dead link)' website
  13. Will South Dakota Attempt to Ban Abortion Again?, RH Reality Check blog, Nov. 19, 2007
  14. USA Today, "Voters split evenly on S.D. abortion ban," October 27, 2008
  15. Ballot issues raise legal questions, May 27, 2008
  16. Stateline, "Social issues crowd state ballots," July 24, 2008
  17. Task Force Recommends Further Restrictions On Abortion (dead link), Yankton Press, Dec. 15, 2005
  18. Abortion ban opponents raise, spend nearly twice as much as supporters, The Daily Republic, October 28, 2008
  19. Rapid City Journal, "Out-of-state money poured in on both sides of abortion initiative," February 15, 2010
  20. Los Angeles Times, "South Dakota to reconsider vote on abortion ban," October 27, 2008
  21. S.D. abortion ban going to vote, Argus Leader, March 31, 2008
Abortion-related Ballot Measures
California Parental NotificationColorado Definition of PersonOther abortion-related ballot measures

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