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2008 Abortion Ban

November 2008 marked the second decisive defeat of an abortion ban in South Dakota. South Dakota voters rejected the 2008 abortion ban, Initiated Measure 11, by a 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent margin.

Initiated Measure 11 would have prohibited any person from prescribing, administering, procuring or selling any medicine, drug, substance, or device to pregnant women with the intent to cause "the termination of the life of an unborn human being.” Doctors who provided abortion care in violation of the ban could have been charged with a felony carrying a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine. The measure also contained certain medically and factually inaccurate "findings” of the 2005 "South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion.” For the full text and SD Attorney General’s explanation, click here.

The goal of the drafters of Measure 11 was to use successful passage of the South Dakota abortion ban as a means to challenge the Supreme Court 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and ban abortion nationwide.

Those supporting Measure 11 claimed the 2008 abortion ban included exceptions for mother’s health, rape and incest. The ban actually contained exceptions only if a woman’s life is in danger or if she is a victim of rape or incest under certain circumstances. Sexual-assault counselors and advocates expressed concern that the rape and incest exceptions carried complex reporting requirements to law-enforcement authorities, DNA testing of the woman and the fetus, and required the physician to retrieve blood samples and turn those over to law-enforcement authorities. The health exception was unacceptably narrow and applied only when necessary to prevent "a serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of the functioning of a major bodily organ or system of the pregnant woman should the pregnancy be continued and which risk could be prevented through an abortion.”

Opposition to the ban was led by the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, a coalition of individuals and organizations – including NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota – that was initially formed to defeat the 2006 abortion ban.

The coalition reminded voters that South Dakota has one of the lowest abortion rates nationwide and that regulations on abortion in South Dakota are among the most burdensome in the country.

The public heard personal stories that made it clear how the ban would endanger women’s health and interfere with a doctor’s ability to exercise proper medical judgment and protect the health of the patient.

The opponents of the ban argued successfully that the abortion ban Measure 11 was unwarranted government intrusion; politicians interfering into complicated personal and private decisions.

When the votes were counted, 206,477 South Dakota voters had said "no” to another abortion ban in South Dakota. Government intrusion into the personal and private health care decisions of women and families had failed - again. South Dakota values of freedom and privacy prevailed.
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