South Dakota's abortion measure is on track to appear on the November ballot despite opposition from the state

The group collecting signatures for a ballot measure that could enshrine abortion rights in the South Dakota state constitution says it has collected the required number of signatures before the petition submission deadline next week.

Dakotans for Health announced Wednesday that it has collected more than 55,000 signatures in support of the ballot measure, well above the required 35,000.

“The Freedom Amendment will restore women’s personal freedom and repeal South Dakota’s blanket abortion ban by writing the 1973 Supreme Court protections into our Constitution Roe v. Wade decision,” a co-founder of the group, Rick Weiland, said at an event in Sioux Falls.

“We pay to advertise to the nation that 'Freedom Works Here,'” Mr. Weiland said, referring to a series of ads depicting the state's governor. “Freedom doesn’t work here when the government forces a raped woman to give birth.”

The proposed amendment to the state constitution would prohibit the state from restricting abortion rights in the first trimester but would allow the state to “regulate the pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion” in the second trimester, but only in “ways reasonably related to physical health.” “. the pregnant woman.”

The state could ban abortion in the third trimester, although the amendment provides exceptions for the life and health of the mother.

The amendment's specific text has divided the movement to restore reproductive rights in the state, with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood choosing not to comment on the measure, citing concerns about the bill's specific language.

When Roe v. Wade After the law was repealed in 2022, a 2005 trigger law immediately went into effect in South Dakota, banning all abortions in the state unless the procedure is deemed necessary to prevent the death of the mother – an exception that which is often difficult for doctors to implement.

South Dakota is one of eight states where advocates are trying to put an abortion rights measure on the ballot this fall. Three other states, New York, Maryland and Florida, already have guaranteed abortion-related measures on the ballot.

While advocates in South Dakota pushed to get the measure on the ballot, the state's lawmakers and governor tried to undermine their efforts.

Gov. Noem signed a bill earlier this year that would allow those who have signed petitions for ballot measures to withdraw their signatures.

Ms. Noem also signed a bill that appropriated $100,000 to create a video “and other materials” describing the state’s abortion law and its guidelines for “medical care for a pregnant woman suffering from life-threatening or health-threatening medical conditions.” “, conditions are described.”

The video, expected to be released more than two years after South Dakota's abortion law went into effect, aims to clarify when exactly an abortion is allowed to save the mother's life.

Earlier this month, Ms. Noem said she would oppose exemptions for rape and incest in her state, telling CNN: “I just don't believe that one tragedy should perpetuate another tragedy.”

“I believe that we need to take care of mothers who are in a crisis situation and that we should stand by them and give them all the information and the best information they can give before they are put in a situation “The only option they have is abortion,” Ms. Noem said.

In other states, officials have set conditions for exemptions on an ad hoc basis. In Oklahoma, the attorney general clarified last year that a woman does not have to be “septic, bleeding profusely, or otherwise near death” to have a legal abortion, but doctors can still be prosecuted if they have evidence performed an abortion when the woman's life was not in danger.

While efforts to make it harder to pass ballot measures are now clearly focused on abortion rights, South Dakota lawmakers previously repealed an anti-corruption law passed by a ballot measure that would also have introduced new penalties for campaign finance and lobbying violations as a new independent ethics commission .

En route to filing the petition at the state capitol, Mr. Weiland tells the Sun that he does not view the state legislature's efforts as a “serious threat to our ability to vote.”

“What it really is is a desperate attempt by the Republican Party, which is in the pockets of right-to-life groups in South Dakota, to ban us from voting,” Mr. Weiland said.

Mr. Weiland said anti-abortion activists are advertising and trying to get people to withdraw their signatures or vote against the measure in November.

Anti-abortion advocates are telling South Dakota residents that the provision would allow abortions up to birth, force doctors or health care professionals to perform abortions, or provide taxpayer money for abortion access, according to Weiland.

A poll conducted by South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota shortly after the state ban took effect found that 65 percent of respondents supported a vote on the issue.

Another 79 percent opposed criminal penalties for people who help women get an abortion, and 57 percent of respondents supported access to abortion drugs in the state.

The Life Defense Fund of South Dakota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Anna Harden

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