S. Dakota Readies Again for Abortion Fight

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 21, 2008

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Bad things don't happen to her, Tiffany Campbell used to think. She was a mother of two, enthusiastically pregnant with twins, a churchgoing Republican living a good middle-class life. Why should she care about a political battle over abortion?

Then Campbell discovered that the twins were relying on one beating heart. Doctors told her that neither would survive if she carried them to term, and that the strong one was fading fast. If one were aborted, they said, the other would probably make it.

"I was not going to bury two of my babies," Campbell remembers thinking. "If I can intervene and save one of my babies, I'm going to do it."

Campbell had the abortion at 17 weeks. The survivor, whom she named Brady, is now healthy and 19 months old. When she learned that an antiabortion referendum on South Dakota's Nov. 4 ballot would prevent other women from having the same choice, she threw herself into the fight.

For the second time since 2006, South Dakota voters are being asked to outlaw almost all abortions. A ballot initiative called Initiated Measure 11 would ban the procedure except in cases of rape, incest and a narrow interpretation of the health and life of the woman.

Voters rejected a more restrictive measure in 2006, but polls suggested that South Dakotans would have voted yes if it had included exceptions. A group called Vote Yes for Life soon pushed the new version, which they hope will prevent more than 700 abortions a year and produce the case that will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion nationwide.

Abortion foe Leslee Unruh calls Measure 11 "urgent for the babies who are aborted."

Unruh likes to say that more than 90 percent of the women who have abortions are using it "as birth control." She said the new version of the measure should be attractive because it is "more moderate, more reasonable, more of a middle ground."

Marvin Buehner, a pro-choice Rapid City doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, said the law "would amount to a total ban."

"If there's a risk of a Class 4 felony if I don't meet the ambiguous standard of 'serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily organ or system,' there's no way I would consider doing an abortion for health reasons," Buehner said. "This represents incredible government interference in the practice of medicine."

South Dakota already may be the most difficult state in which to access abortion.

The legislature passed a law requiring doctors to tell women that an abortion would "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Each woman must be told that abortion increases the risk of "suicide ideation and suicide," a medically disputed assertion, and must be offered the chance to view a sonogram. A 24-hour waiting period is required.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company