Beware of deceptive campaign tactics
By Michael Pauly
Executive Director S.D. Catholic Conference
On October 31, 2023, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley sent a letter to the sponsor of a ballot measure that would enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution. The measure’s proponents are attempting to gather just over 35,000 valid signatures, which would allow their amendment to be placed on the ballot for the November 5, 2024, general election.
Attorney General Jackley’s letter stated he has received “video and photographic evidence” suggesting that supporters of the abortion amendment have violated several laws that regulate signature gathering. The alleged violations include having voters sign the petition multiple times and leaving petition forms unattended.
But perhaps the most interesting allegation is this: “… the Attorney General’s Office has received evidence of petition circulators providing misleading information to the public.” Specifically, Jackley writes: “Any suggestion that your proposed amendment makes abortion legal only for the first trimester is contrary to the language of the proposed amendment …” In reality, the Attorney General points out, it would allow abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Unfortunately, the amendment’s language seems intentionally designed to obscure this reality.
The amendment provides that abortion cannot be regulated in any way during the first trimester. Even basic health and safety standards would be unconstitutional. More than 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester, which means the amendment would usher in a near-total deregulation of the abortion industry.
During the second trimester, which extends beyond the point of fetal viability, the state could have some regulations to protect women’s health, but none to protect the health of preborn children. Thus, the amendment would allow horrific late-term abortions of healthy babies, including those who can survive outside the womb.
Even in the third trimester, which extends all the way to birth, abortion would be permitted for “health” reasons. As Jackley writes in his letter, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted health expansively. In Doe v. Bolton (1973), the court ruled that “the medical judgment (concerning abortion) may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”
Could the legislature define what “health” means in this context? No. The amendment clearly states that the woman’s physician — often an abortionist — has unfettered authority to decide when an abortion is necessary to protect health.
The Catholic bishops of South Dakota, in their pastoral letter “Bearing the Face of Jesus” (June 2023), warned that the abortion amendment “would sanction the wholesale destruction of preborn children and prevent anyone from standing in the way.” They further write, “We exhort the faithful to provide practical assistance to the campaign that has been organized to defeat the amendment …”
To get involved in the campaign to defeat the abortion amendment, please visit the Life Defense Fund at www.lifede fensefund.com. For resources to educate your parish on the abortion amendment, visit the South Dakota Catholic Conference website.