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SD Abortion ban repeal drive gets 37,846 signatures
Angus Leader
May 30, 2006

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families announced Tuesday that it had secured more than twice the number of signatures it needed to refer the abortion ban passed by the 2006 Legislature to a vote of the people this fall.

At a press conference at the Downtown Holiday Inn, officials with the campaign said they had 37,846 signatures – more than double the 16,728 they needed to get.

Those signatures still need to be validated.

Supporters of the repeal said they had 1,200 volunteers from 138 communities circulate the petitions. None of the volunteers were paid, they said.

The abortion ban passed by the 2006 Legislature "is the wrong approach to reducing unintended pregnancies,´´ former South Dakota Attorney General Roger Tellinghuisen said Tuesday.

Tellinghuisen was one of three opponents of the ban who participated in a teleconference before members of the group traveled to Pierre to file a petition to force the abortion law to a public vote.

The group planned to file nearly 38,000 signatures with the secretary of state in Pierre early Tuesday afternoon. That´s about 20,000 more than required for a referral – the process by which citizens may veto actions of the Legislature.

Jan Nicolay, a co-chair of the campaign to refer the abortion law, said a likely lawsuit if the ban becomes law "would cost a great deal of money," but she said more important that than, the nearly total ban on abortion "tells victims of rape and incest they have no options."

Tellinghuisen said emergency contraception isn´t readily available in most of South Dakota.

He also said many people who aren´t routinely involved in political campaigns are sure to take an interest in the debate over abortion if the referral is certified for the ballot.

"It´s going to be an interesting November, for sure," Tellinghuisen said.

Dr. Maria Bell of Sioux Falls, whose name appears as the official sponsor of the referral, said of the likely campaign ahead, "Everyone is going to have to look deep in their hearts and understand the issue."

Nicolay said the group hasn´t finalized a budget for the campaign. "We have not solicited money for the campaign for the ballot issue in November," she said.

State law requires 16,728 signatures of registered voters for the referral to be placed on the ballot for Nov. 7. It can take two to three weeks for the secretary of state´s office to certify an issue once the signatures are filed.

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