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ELECTION 2008 | Petition Filed for Ballot Initiative in S.D. That Would Ban Most Abortions

ELECTION 2008 | Petition Filed for Ballot Initiative in S.D. That Would Ban Most Abortions
[Dec. 18, 2007]

Thirteen people recently filed a petition to collect signatures for a South Dakota ballot initiative that would ban abortions with limited exceptions, the AP/Rapid City Journal reports (Walker, AP/Rapid City Journal, 12/15). Under the proposal, abortions 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" of impairment to "a major bodily organ or system." The proposal also includes reporting and counseling requirements (Proposal text, 12/18). Physicians performing abortions outlawed by the measure could be charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.

Supporters of the proposal hope the law could be used to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Supporters must collect 16,776 signatures of registered voters by April 1 in order for the measure to appear on South Dakota's Nov. 4, 2008, ballot, according to state Elections Supervisor Kea Warne.

South Dakota voters in November 2006 rejected 56% to 44% a law (HB 1215) that would have banned all abortions in the state except to save a pregnant woman's life (AP/Rapid City Journal, 12/15). The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families gathered enough signatures to block the law from going into effect on July 1, 2006 and place the issue on the November 2006 ballot (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 11/8/06). According to the AP/Journal, the state Legislature earlier this year "took another run at the issue," but the no bill was passed.

Jan Nicolay, co-chair of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, could not be reached for comment Friday about the new petition. Patricia Giebink -- a Chamberlain, S.D.-based ob-gyn and one of the petitioners -- said, "This is what the people said they wanted after the 2006 campaign." She added, "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 we said the people wanted." There are about 800 abortions in the state annually (AP/Rapid City Journal, 12/15).