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South Dakota Abortion Ban: The Sequel

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October 6, 2008

As I walked along the manicured lawns of South Dakota this past weekend knocking on doors adorned with Halloween decorations and asking people to vote to protect reproductive freedom this November, one thing became clear: people here love their families and their country. Maybe Leslie Unruh, one of the architects of the state ballot measure that would virtually end access to safe, legal abortion thought these qualities would make South Dakota the perfect place to launch a challenge to Roe v. Wade. But another thing became clear to me as well: South Dakotans don’t think our government should be involved in personal family matters.

What anti-choice activists didn’t factor in when they decided to bring back another abortion ban even after voters resoundingly rejected a similar measure in 2006 is that South Dakotans are fiercely private people. They value the importance of family and with that comes an understanding that families are best left to make complex and personal decisions without government intrusion. I spoke with one woman who described herself as pro-life and then went on to say, “I am pro-life. And I think that if something horrible happened, if my daughter were raped that I would do this and that. But you just don’t know until you’re in another person’s shoes what you will and won’t do. I’d like to think that I would support her in having the baby but I just don’t know. And I can’t tell another person what they have to do.”

I heard iterations of this theme over and over again: people feel strongly that government should not tell families what they ought to do when faced with such complex and personal decisions.

Instead, people talked about wanting our government to help build a strong and healthy economy— one where gas prices aren’t through the roof and where wages keep pace with the price of a gallon of milk. Folks here are anxiously watching what Wall Street and Washington do next, and understand that those decisions will affect their families.

But abortion? Honestly, a lot of South Dakotans are busy trying to survive and raise healthy families. They’re not interested in telling their neighbors what they should and should not do when faced with an unintended pregnancy.

Let’s hope that the anti-choice advocates who have spent so much time and money bringing this issue back to the ballot here will listen to the voters of South Dakota this time and let families decide what’s best for them, without government interference.

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