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FEATURE | fall 2006

Showdown on the Plains
South Dakotans have come out in force against a draconian abortion ban. Can they stop it before it upends abortion rights throughout the nation?

Pulling the State Triggers
Find out what would happen in your state if Roe were overturned

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-- College student Dena Gleason, 24, squints at the address on the blue wooden home with the two-car garage, then strolls resolutely toward the front door, armed with an open smile and a clipboard. The smell of freshly mowed grass clings to the thick evening air of midsummer, and the American flag on the porch droops in the heat..
"I never thought this would be something I'd have to do. To go out and defend women's rights in South Dakota and, the way it looks now, in the nation," says Gleason, her voice rising to fill the quiet of the neighborhood. "We shouldn't have to fight for this."

In February 2006, the state legislature of South Dakota passed, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed, a bill to outlaw abortion in the state. With no exceptions for rape, incest or a woman's health-only to "prevent the death" of a pregnant woman-it is the most draconian abortion ban in the country.

South Dakota is a conservative, sparsely populated place-known for its Great Plains, Black Hills and Badlands-where abortion is already so constrained that there is only one clinic for its 775,000 residents. The state's anti-abortion groups thought it was a perfect place to launch a further attack, but despite the legislative victory they have an all-out battle on their hands: The ban's passage has spurred thousands of state residents such as Gleason-many of them political naifs-to action.. Following the legislation's passage, a coalition of feminist, reproductive-rights and civil-liberties groups formed the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families to ask that voters repeal the ban through a referendum on the November ballot.

Their effort is about more than one state's law: If the referendum doesn't succeed in striking down the ban, the law will inevitably land on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. There, with moderate Sandra Day O'Connor having been replaced by ultraconservative Samuel Alito, a decision in the law's favor could reverse Roe v. Wade. This, of course, was the legislature's intent, and with a reversal of Roe, abortion would be immediately outlawed in as many as 30 states..

"This is about an ill wind that is beginning to blow in S.D. and will ultimately blow across the country," says Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. "I view the South Dakota campaign we're currently mounting as a first step to significantly fight back against this political movement.." Continue to the full article