The common belief among many is that the Abortion Ban failed because it lacked exceptions for rape and incest and that if it included those exceptions, South Dakotans would have passed the legislation with around the same 55-45 margin that it eventually failed by. That might have been the case, and if so the pro-life movement might have missed their last best golden opportunity to forward their attempt at overturning Roe. Why? Well several things happened on the way to November 7th that could make their fight much more difficult the next time around.
First off here in South Dakota, several tactics by the Vote Yes for Life campaign might have turned off some of their supporters and angered those that might have been sitting on the fence. When first passed last February, supporters heralded the bill for not having any exceptions and then when they discovered that the fact that a lack of rape and incest exceptions would cause problems, they changed direction and tried to show that it did. Finally their insistance on using graphic images and symbols at polling places and delivering newspapers wrapped in "Vote Yes" bags have many believing that the movement to get voters on their side had become too radical.
After it became apparent that their attempt to ban abortions was going to be defeated, the faces of the Vote Yes campaign refused to accept the results and still haven’t conceded. South Dakota may be a "red state" and as Roger Hunt continues to proclaim, "a pro-life state" but even if that is true, we also know how to face reality. Admit you lost and move on!
Speaking of Roger Hunt, the Senator that introduced this legislation last session, he is still undecided as to whether he will introduce this legislation again in February when the legislature next convenes. According to the KELO story though, his supporters are again pushing for the no-exceptions version which has already been proven to be a lost cause.
Hunt’s influence in Pierre might have also taken a bit of a hit. He is currently involved in a campaign financing scandal that has a shell company he setup being used to funnel $750,000 to the Vote Yes campaign and then not filing a campaign finance report. Once the donation came to light, Hunt finally filed a report but refuses to name the one and only donor as is required by state law. Adding to Hunt’s legal issues, voters decided to change the makeup of the Senate which could make getting another abortion bill through the legislature more difficult.
Finally national politics might make the pro-life cause more difficult. The main hope of the supporters of the South Dakota ban was that HB1215 would pass here and then be fought in the courts eventually leading to the Supreme Court, where the current make-up would have changed enough to make overturning Roe a possibility. Up until Tuesday, SCOTUS had already picked up one conservative judge that might have been sympathetic to their cause and with a GOP controlled Congress and White House plus a least one current judge probably getting ready to retire, adding another seemed like a real possibility.
Then a funny thing happened. Voters nationwide passed a stem cell bill in Missouri, voted down a marriage amendment in Arizona, and put the Democrats in charge of both the House and the Senate. Now all of a sudden, the prospects of getting another conservative judge on to the Supreme Court have been seriously hurt, and voters across the country are starting to move back towards the center.
What this means to the pro-life movement still remains to be seen but it appears that the 12 year drift to the far right in America has all of a sudden taken a left turn towards the middle. If that trend continues, the pro-life agenda might be replaced in state and national politics with other issues like heath care and education and all I can say to that is it’s about time!