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South Dakota Abortion Ban, Initiative 11 (2008)

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An Abortion Ban Initiative will appear on the November 2008 ballot in South Dakota as an initiated constitutional amendment. The ban measures is known as Initiated Measure 11. If the state's voters approve it, the South Dakota Constitution will henceforward ban all abortions in the state except for those performed because of rape, incest or to protect the woman's health. Doctors who perform an abortion in violation of this initiative's provisions could be charged with a Class 4 felony, which in South Dakota carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

The South Dakota ballot question is one of four abortion-related ballot measures headed for November ballots around the country.[1] 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.[2],[3]


Pro-life measures have been attempted twice in the last 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 44% of South Dakota's voters agreed with the legislature's bill, so it was rejected and never took effect. The legislature's repudiated 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.

The study received negative media when several of the members walked out before it could come to a vote. Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, said that the report was filled with dishonest statements and that others input was being rejected.

"That's when I hit the ceiling," Adelstein said, "The report is theologically based, has patent untruths and misrepresentations, and no reasonable attention was paid to any amendments."[6]


The same backers of the 2006 legislative bill are themselves now sponsoring a ballot measure for 2008. Supporters include 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 are: Leah Anderson of Sioux Falls; Rep. Mary Glenski, D-Sioux Falls; Debra Hoy of Gregory; Karen Nelson of Elkton; Nicole Osmundson of Sioux Falls; Stacey Wollman of Rapid City; 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. [7] The group is known as Vote Yes For Life.

The stated reason behind their desire to ban abortion is to "stop abortion from being used as birth control". [8] To that end, the Pastor Urgency Tour scheduled for February 26 through March 1, 2008 has begun. The goal of the Urgency Tour is to "Rally 300 Pastors to collect signatures in their churches and get the people in their churches to collect signatures in their cities."


The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families is 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." [9] The Campaign is co-chaired by fourteen prominent South Dakota leaders. The group has successfully campaigned against the last 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 believe there are 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.[10]


The initiative has collected more than twice the amount of signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot in November, and has been certified to appear on the November ballot.[11]

External links

See also


  1. Chicago Tribune, Deja-vu in South Dakota, May 27, 2008
  2. Ballot issues raise legal questions, May 27, 2008
  3. Stateline, "Social issues crowd state ballots", July 24, 2008
  4. Rape, incest, health exceptions in new ban, Argus Leader, Dec. 15, 2007
  5. South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortions
  6. Task Force Recommends Further Restrictions On Abortion, Yankton Press, Dec. 15, 2005
  7. Petition effort seeks to ban most abortions, Associated Press, 12/15/07
  8. Vote Yes For Life website
  9. South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families website
  10. Will South Dakota Attempt to Ban Abortion Again?, RH Reality Check blog, Nov. 19, 2007
  11. S.D. abortion ban going to vote, Argus Leader, March 31, 2008

Additional Reading