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ELECTION 2008 | Group Files Petition Signatures for S.D. Ballot Initiative That Would Ban Most Abortions

ELECTION 2008 | Group Files Petition Signatures for S.D. Ballot Initiative That Would Ban Most Abortions
[April 2, 2008]

The antiabortion group on Monday said it has filed more than enough signatures for a South Dakota ballot initiative that would ban virtually all abortions with limited exceptions, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports (Woster, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 4/1). Leslee Unruh, executive director of the group, said the group had collected nearly 50,000 signatures, far more than the 16,766 needed to place the proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot (Lydersen, Washington Post, 4/2). Under the proposal, abortions in South Dakota would be permitted in cases of rape or incest, to save a woman's life, or in cases of a "substantial and irreversible health risk" or impairment to "a major bodily organ or system" (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/18/07). The proposal states that all induced abortions end the life of "an entire, unique, living human being," and that the state has a duty to protect every human being (Woster, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 4/1).

Unruh said the petitions were turned into the secretary of state's office on Monday, the Rapid City Journal reports (Woster, Rapid City Journal, 4/1). Physicians performing abortions outlawed by the measure -- which also includes reporting and counseling requirements -- could be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

This year's ballot initiative is a response to the rejection of a 2006 law that sought to ban all abortions in the state except to save a pregnant woman's life. The earlier ban was rejected by voters 56% to 44% (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/18/07). Jan Nicolay -- co-chair of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which led the earlier campaign to prevent the law from going into effect -- said, "In 2006, South Dakotans had a thoughtful and thorough debate about banning abortion, and we decided that such inflexibility and intrusion on personal private decisions is wrong." She added, "Even those who are strongly pro-life recognize that each person's circumstances are unique, and one law can't possibly provide for all of those difficult circumstances."

Rep. Roger Hunt (R), who helped write the 2008 proposal, said the initiative would go beyond current boundaries established by the U.S. Supreme Court for state regulation of abortions. "You'd have to be very naive if you didn't think the Supreme Court was going to look at it." He added that the new initiative is more clearly written. "We have a lot of confidence this bill will be approved," Hunt said (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 4/1). Unruh said it could take about a month for Secretary of State Chris Nelson (R) and his staff to verify the 16,776 valid signatures needed to put the initiated measure on the November ballot (Rapid City Journal, 4/1).

The proposal is available online (.pdf).