Abortion opponents officially launch “Life Defense Fund”

Anti-abortion activists are working to prevent a pro-abortion ballot initiative from ever even making it onto the ballot in South Dakota.
Abortion opponents in South Dakota launched the "Life Defense Fund" with the hopes of defeating...
Abortion opponents in South Dakota launched the "Life Defense Fund" with the hopes of defeating an effort by pro-abortion activists to legalize abortion through the second trimester in South Dakota.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 22, 2022 at 7:19 PM MDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Almost as soon as the November general election wraps up, work will be underway for another electoral cause.

“Dakotans for Health” has a proposed amendment to the South Dakota Constitution to put on the ballot in 2024, that would effectively legalize abortion through the second trimester. If passed, it would overturn a number of South Dakota’s existing laws regulating abortion, including the “trigger law” currently in place, and a ban on public funding for abortions.

But opponents to that effort are already road mapping their strategy to defeat it, with the hopes of blocking it before it ever even gets on the ballot.

“We are inviting people to volunteer, to step up, to educate our fellow citizens about how radical this is,” explained State Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids). “That is going to come through a whole lot of different measures, including traditional advertising, talking on the streets to people, and really making sure they understand what this measure would do.”

Hansen, along with Leslee Unruh of the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, co-founded the “Life Defense Fund,” a group opposing the abortion amendment. A Statement of Organization was filed with the Secretary of State’s office on August 16th.

Unruh suggests that the amendment as written is so extreme, it may be unable to get the signatures required of it, which is why they want to start fighting against it during the petition collecting process.

Proposed amendments to the constitution require 10% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election to sign on, in order to get the measure on the ballot the following year.

For now, that number is 33,922, but it will change following the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Both Hansen and Unruh say that entails putting people on the ground to peacefully inform potential petition signers about what the amendment does. They argue that often, petition signature collectors pressure people to sign on to initiatives, without giving them all of the details.

“The truth is, there has been a whole lot of money poured into South Dakota, to do a lot of things that are not very South Dakota,” Unruh said of the amendment. “I think people want to hear from South Dakotans before they decide on this important issue.”

But Dakotans for Health Founder Rick Weiland says not giving a voters a choice in 2024 is “not democratic.”

“It is now up to the states after Roe v. Wade, to determine what kind of access women are going to have when it comes to their reproductive choices,” Weiland explained. “And I think that it is pretty extreme on the opponents’ part to go out and stalk our volunteers who are out there collecting signatures.”

Proponents of the abortion constitutional amendment cannot begin collecting signatures until November 5th. They will have until exactly one year later to submit those signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.