Exceptions in S.D. Abortion Ban Improves Odds for Passage, Say Pro-Lifers

Although a proposed measure prohibiting abortion in South Dakota two years ago didn't muster enough support for passage, pro-life groups say the revised abortion ban - which provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger - will stand a better chance of becoming law.

This is exactly what the people of South Dakota have been asking for, according to Brandi Gruis, organizer of VoteYesForLife.com, a Web site dedicated in support of Measure 11.

In 2006, the state Legislature approved a law prohibiting abortion that did not include any exceptions. Although polls had shown that a majority of South Dakotans favored an abortion ban, state voters defeated the ban, voting 56 to 44.

Gruis said he believes the law appearing before voters this fall contains the exception clause that many say they want included in the ban, as expressed in polls taken in last year and earlier this year.

But while the "Vote Yes For Life" campaign is more confident of the appeal of a 2008 abortion ban, it has been locked in a battle with abortion supporters South Dakota Campaign for Health Families through an exchange of television and web ads.

The latest web ad posted on the SDFHF Web site on Tuesday claimed the new law is actually old and told views that the state "already voted on this."

"This is a false representation," countered Gruis in a statement. "In 2006, the Legislature passed a law that prohibited abortion, but it did not contain exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. That law was referred to the election in November of 2006 and was voted on."

"The 2008 law is totally different and represents what the voting public said they wanted in place of the 2006 law," he added.

The video, as described by SDFHF, includes testimonials from three South Dakotans that demonstrate how the complicated and vague language in the abortion ban would threaten the health and well-being of women and families in South Dakota. 

Gruis said the law is pretty simple. It says it "is illegal to deliberately and intentionally kill an unborn child except in the case of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at risk or there is a serious risk to the health of the mother," he said.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a Kansas-based pro-life group, expressed his endorsement of the measure on Tuesday.

He said the law is "far from perfect," but said it would represent a giant step toward the abolition of abortion.

"After 35 years of decriminalized abortion, we understand that there is no 'magic bullet' that will stop all abortions today, but we can move the ball down the field toward the ultimate goal of total abolition with principled steps that will protect thousands of babies that are currently at risk," Newman stated.

A coalition of South Dakota pastors has also launched an effort, known as The Lampstand Project, in support of Measure 11. The group has sent a letter to the 1,600 churches in the state, inviting them to join the effort.

The name "Lampstand Project" is based on the symbol of the lantern that marked safe houses that helped free slaves through the Underground Railroad. Just as the safe houses were gateways to freedom, the project similarly identifies a church as a gate to life.

"(We) are sounding a clear trumpet call from the pulpit, encouraging our congregations to support initiated Measure 11 with volunteers, special offerings or designated funds," said the Rev. Jon Sanders, pastor of Flandreau Bible Church, according to the Argus Leader.

"Far beyond Nov. 4, Lampstand churches will remain committed and available to women and children, born and unborn."