News Articles

ELECTION 06: S.D. abortion ban backers seek comeback win

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of special preview stories about the 2006 Election.

Today: A preview of efforts in South Dakota to keep a ban on abortion.

Tomorrow: A preview of parental notification votes in California and Oregon.

WASHINGTON (BP)–If South Dakota voters affirm the legislature’s ban on abortions in the Nov. 7 election, it will be widely perceived as a comeback win for the measure’s backers accomplished primarily with in-state support.

South Dakotans will decide on Election Day whether to endorse Referred Law 6, the referendum on the state’s abortion ban enacted earlier this year. The legislature approved the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act in February, and Republican Gov. Mike Rounds signed it into law in March.

The measure prohibits all abortions in the state except those to preserve the life of the mother. It is a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling striking down state bans and legalizing abortion nationwide.

The law’s foes gained enough signatures to place the law on the ballot, delaying enforcement of the measure and providing abortion rights advocates with hope it would be voted down. The law will take effect if voters approve it, although opponents are expected then to challenge it in court. It is a challenge even many pro-life defenders doubt it could survive.

Foes of the law have a comfortable margin among the electorate, according to the most recent public opinion survey. The statewide poll showed 52 percent of voters surveyed plan to cast their ballots against the ban, while 42 percent expect to support it, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported Oct. 29. Six percent were undecided in the survey, which was commissioned by the Argus Leader and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling Research. (A vote for Referred Law 6 is a vote to keep the abortion ban.)

The survey hasn’t deterred Leslee Unruh, campaign manager for Vote Yes for Life, the pro-ban organization. She questions the poll’s accuracy, given a Zogby survey commissioned by her organization showed the ban trailing by only 47 to 44 percent Sept. 20. She also is focused on other factors.

“We look at the people power and the fact we have more absentee ballots than the other side,” Unruh told Baptist Press. “We are not concerned about the polls. We’re concerned about getting out the vote and keeping people” on the telephones.

“It’s come down to whether we can keep our ads up,” Unruh said of the need for more funds.

She also said, however, pro-life Christians need to act. “What’s going to make the difference is not only prayer, but [God] expects us to put feet to our prayers — to get up and walk door to door … to be bold, but to use the love approach … to not be apathetic.”

The ballot battle has gained nationwide attention from pro-life and pro-choice advocates. Funding sources have differed widely, however, for the sides competing over the measure.

Vote Yes for Life had received about 65 percent of its gifts from individuals or groups from within South Dakota, according to records released Nov. 1. The pro-ban organization had raised nearly $2.2 million.

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, the organization leading the effort to repeal the ban, had received more than $1.8 million, but less than $160,000 has come from within the state, according to records it released Nov. 1 to the Argus Leader.

The measure’s foes have received sizable donations from NARAL Pro-choice America and Planned Parenthood, two of the country’s leading abortion rights advocacy organizations.

Unruh said the Vote Yes campaign has not discouraged donations from pro-lifers outside South Dakota. “We just haven’t seen pro-life groups put their money where their mouth is,” she said.

One group nationwide that has supported the campaign consists of women who have had abortions. About 1,700 post-abortive women, or others who love them, have given the same amount paid for their abortions in memory of their aborted children, Unruh said. One grandfather made a contribution in memory of the only grandchild he could have had, she said.

Vote Yes for Life has focused in its media campaign on women who regret their abortions, as well as women in crisis pregnancies who carried their babies to term. It also has featured a woman who gave birth to a daughter conceived by rape, as well as a young adult man produced by rape. Its ads have included endorsements from South Dakota doctors who support the ban -– 130 in all have done so — and a former abortion doctor who now opposes the practice. The campaign also has on its website, www.voteyesforlife.com, a commercial featuring ultrasound images of an unborn child.

“The baby is certainly something we all want to protect, but we are forgetting the woman is the one with the scars who is left,” said Unruh, president of the Sioux Falls-based Abstinence Clearinghouse, which provides a network for abstinence programs in the United States and overseas. “If love is the greatest of these, then why can’t we love both of them?

“I am the woman. I have had an abortion,” Unruh said. “I was in the church. I felt separated from God and the church at the time. The woman is shamed; her spirit is crushed. She has a hard time thinking God would forgive her,” and has a horrible time forgiving herself, she said.

Foes of the ban have concentrated much of their effort on the law’s lack of exceptions for rape, incest and the “health” of the mother.

Vote Yes for Life has responded by citing physicians who point out the law does not bar the use of the “morning-after” pill, a high-powered dose of birth control pills that can restrict ovulation in a woman or act as an abortifacient by preventing implantation of the tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

The campaign also has quoted doctors saying they would still be able to provide full treatment to women with serious diseases even if the unborn child dies in the process. “Referred Law 6 regulates intent, not procedure,” Sioux Falls doctor Yvonne Seger said, according to the Dakota Voice, a biblical worldview newspaper in Rapid City.
For more information about Referred Law 6, visit www.voteyesforlife.com