The state of South Dakota is the epicenter of efforts to turn back the clock on reproductive rights this election season.

Earlier this year the state’s legislature passed an abortion ban so restrictive, as Kate Michelman writes in a new Nation online piece, that it makes even pre-Roe v. Wade laws seem enlightened. The law provides no exceptions: not for rape, not for incest, not in cases of severe fetal abnormality, not to protect the mother’s health. Doctors can be charged with a felony and be sentenced to five years in prison for violating any of the bill’s provisions.

Here’s what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says about HB 1215: It is “not based on science, strips women of their legal rights, and criminalizes essential aspects of women’s health care. The intervention of the legislature into medical-decision making is inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous.”

Fortunately that message is coming through loud and clear to many South Dakotans, and following the legislation’s passage, a coalition of feminist, reproductive-rights and civil-liberties groups formed the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families (SDCHF) to ask that voters repeal the ban through a referendum on the November ballot. As Rebecca Claren explains on Alternet, “in just nine and a half weeks, more than 1,200 volunteers gathered over 38,000 signatures–double the number needed–from every county in the state.” Nonetheless, the contest is extremely tight. The latest Zogby poll shows a statistical dead heat.

The anti-choice forces have their act together., the organization fighting to retain the ban, says it has thousands of volunteers planting lawn signs, staffing phone banks and holding house parties. The SDCHF is working overtime to counter these efforts. In the next few days, the group is putting out a series of new TV ads statewide elucidating the bill’s draconian provisions. Watch the ads. Then click here to contribute $10, $25 or $50 to help keep them on the air in South Dakota over the next two weeks. In this contest, every little bit really does count.


The stakes are high. According to a 2004 survey by the Center for Reproductive Rights, abortion could quickly become illegal in as many as 30 states if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Where does your state rate?

The twenty-one states that are seen as being at high risk for banning abortion are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The nine states considered to be at medium risk are Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

The twenty states estimated to be at low risk are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.