South Dakota Abortion Measure Qualifies for Ballot Despite Anti-Abortion Activists’ Bananas Efforts

The secretary of state's office warned earlier this week that anti-abortion activists were posing as government officials and telling voters to withdraw their support of the proposed ballot measure.

South Dakota Abortion Measure Qualifies for Ballot Despite Anti-Abortion Activists’ Bananas Efforts

The South Dakota secretary of state’s office on Thursday announced that a proposed measure to reinstate abortion rights has enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot in November. Dakotans for Health, the primary group that backed the ballot measure, submitted 55,000 signatures in support of it earlier this month, far surpassing the 35,000 requirement. Secretary of State Monae Johnson’s office estimated that 85% of the signatures are valid, and the measure is eligible for the upcoming election. Currently, South Dakota has a total ban on abortion and threatens doctors in violation with prison time.

“Two long years after we began, the South Dakota Secretary of State today certified that the people of South Dakota, not the politicians in Pierre, will be the ones to decide whether to restore Roe v. Wade as the law of South Dakota,” Rick Weiland, co-founder of Dakotans for Health, said in a statement shared with Jezebel. The proposed measure would ensure abortion is legal under all circumstances in the first trimester of pregnancy and allow some regulation by the state after this point.

News that the abortion rights measure is eligible for the ballot comes after a turbulent week, when Johnson’s office warned that members of an anti-abortion group were calling voters who had signed a petition to get the measure on the ballot, posing as government officials and trying to convince them to remove their signatures. “Scammers are pushing the voters to challenge the Abortion Rights ballot measure petitions,” Johnson said in a statement on Monday. The South Dakota Searchlight reported on Tuesday that at least 700 voters had received these calls from a group called the South Dakota Petition Integrity Commission, which is led by Republican state Rep. Jon Hansen. Hansen is also co-chair of the anti-abortion Life Defense Fund, a group that formed to challenge the abortion rights measure.

Amy Scott-Stoltz, president of the South Dakota League of Women Voters, told Jezebel on Wednesday that she and several people she knew had been targeted by misleading calls from people working with the South Dakota Petition Integrity Commission. One voter told KELOLAND News that a woman “called me and told me she was a volunteer from the secretary of state’s office, and she was calling me on behalf of the South Dakota Petition Integrity Committee.” The caller then “asked if I remembered signing the petition for abortion rights, she asked me if I knew that I had signed a petition that would allow abortions up to the point of birth,” this voter said.

Despite this frankly wild misinformation effort from anti-abortion activists, the abortion rights measure officially qualified for the state ballot as of Thursday. Of course, the anti-abortion obstruction isn’t over: Opponents of the measure have 30 days to challenge the petition’s validity. Leslee Unruh, co-chair of the Life Defense Fund, said earlier this month that the group “can’t wait to get to court,” which is a pretty unambiguous threat to drag this out and throw the kitchen sink at the measure in an attempt to halt it.

But for now, abortion rights organizers and Dakotans for Health are celebrating Thursday’s important milestone. After all, abortion and reproductive rights have won in every state where voters have voted directly on the issue since 2022, from Kansas to Ohio.

“Today the fight begins,” Weiland said. He conceded that “we must be prepared for a lavishly financed Right to Life campaign to smear our Abortion Rights amendment with lies about its effect,” but is confident nonetheless: “If there is anyone out there who still wonders whether abortion rights will be on the ballot in South Dakota this Fall, today is your answer.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin