A South Dakota initiative on the November ballot that would ban abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life has mobilized national abortion rights groups in opposition. The groups see the state ballot’s Initiated Measure 11 as a “first step” in a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“Let’s not kid ourselves," Nancy Keenan, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told reporters at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. "The people behind this effort [want] to make South Dakota the first step in a long-term campaign to mount a legal challenge to Roe."
According to Cybercast News Service, Keenan was joined by Cecile Richards, who is president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Richards said the initiative is a “cynical effort” to use South Dakota to further their goal of challenging “the fundamental right of women in this country that supported the right decision to make these personal decisions.”
A South Dakota proponent of the bill questioned the location of the press conference, which was held far from her home state.
“It seems desperate to me that they would hold a press conference in Washington, D.C.," Leslee Unruh, a leader of the South Dakota organization Vote Yes for Life, told Cybercast News Service.
Vote Yes for Life is the organization behind Initiated Measure 11, South Dakota’s third recent attempt to ban abortion. Two years ago South Dakota voters rejected a referendum for a complete ban on abortion by 56 percent to 44 percent.
Unruh explained that Initiated Measure 11 was drafted after surveying voter opinion concerning why they voted against the 2006 ballot measure. Such surveys found that South Dakota voters did not want to see abortion used as birth control and would accept a ban that included exceptions for rape, incest, and cases where the life of the mother is endangered.
She told Cybercast News Service that the ballot measure is “designed to go to the Supreme Court.”
Unruh said national attention from pro-abortion groups could be counterproductive for Initiated Measure 11’s opposition.
"Grassroots always trumps money in South Dakota," Unruh said. "People in South Dakota don't like it if they think someone nationally is trying to tell them what to do."