As Goes South Dakota, So Goes the Nation

All eyes are on South Dakota. At least that was the message at a Washington breakfast this week with leaders of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. They're all backing a Nov. 7 ballot initiative that would repeal South Dakota's new abortion ban, which outlaws the procedure even in cases of rape and incest. "It's going to be tough, but doable," said NARAL president Nancy Keenan over coffee and doughnuts. "This is not just about South Dakota," she said. "It really is about what will happen in the rest of the country." Keenan said 14 other states are weighing similar abortion bans. Public polling in South Dakota shows voters support repealing the ban 47 to 39 percent, but 14 percent are still undecided, leaving plenty of room for either side to win in November. At the breakfast, the abortion-rights advocates refused to disclose how much they're spending, but they previewed a television ad that began airing this week. (It features a rape counselor complaining that, if the law goes forward, rape and incest victims will be "forced to carry out a pregnancy that will remind them every day of their sexual assault.") With early voting starting this week, the pro-choice forces are also mounting an aggressive phone-bank and door-knocking effort to reach as many sympathetic voters as they can--no easy task in the Red State of 750,000 people. They say a win could help them regain momentum heading into the '08 campaign season. But a loss would send them back to federal court, where anti-abortion activists believe they would ultimately prevail.

As Goes South Dakota, So Goes the Nation | News