Polls show amendment to expand abortion rights in South Dakota with nearly 20-point lead – Mitchell Republic

Support for a 2024 ballot amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution is growing, evidenced by a nearly 20-point margin between residents who said they were in favor of the measure and those who oppose it, according to an academic poll conducted in part was sponsored by South Dakota News Watch.

The survey of 500 registered voters statewide, also sponsored by the University of South Dakota’s Chiesman Center for Democracy, found that 53% of respondents support Constitutional Amendment G. If passed, it would overturn a state ban on abortion that was enacted when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 35% of respondents are against the measure, while 11% have not yet made a decision.

That’s a big change from a November 2023 News Watch poll, when 46% of respondents said they were in favor of the measure and 44% opposed it.

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Perhaps most striking is the fact that 46% of Republicans polled in the most recent survey said they support codifying legal abortion in South Dakota, while 41% were opposed and 14% were undecided.

Rick Weiland, co-founder of Dakotans for Health, a grassroots organization sponsoring the amendment, said the poll indicates more people are paying attention to an issue seen as one of the key dividers in the 2024 national and state elections.

“I really believe more people are tuning in to this,” said Weiland, a former Democratic U.S. House and Senate candidate. “(South Dakota) operates under one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country, and there has been a backlash. People want common sense options for reproductive health care in a state where that freedom has been taken away.”

The co-founders of the Life Defense Fund, an anti-abortion group created to provide organized opposition to the amendment, said in a statement to News Watch that more information will lead to changing opinions on the issue.

“The devil is in the details, and the more people learn that this extreme amendment authorizes late-term abortion and bans protections for maternal physical health, the more they will reject it,” said Republican state lawmaker Jon Hansen and Leslee , who has been an anti-abortion advocate for years. Unruh said in the statement.


Dakotans for Health co-founder Rick Weiland talks to supporters at a news conference May 1, 2024, at the library in downtown Sioux Falls. SD Weiland said his group had collected 55,000 signatures for a voting change to enshrine abortion rights in the South Dakota Constitution.

Stu Whitney / South Dakota Watch News

‘Complex or confusing language’

Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy conducted the survey from May 10 to 13. Interviewees were randomly selected from a telephone voter registration list that included both landline and mobile phone numbers. Quotas were assigned to represent voter registration by county. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

South Dakota is currently under a 2005 state trigger law that was activated in June 2022, when the Supreme Court left it up to the states to determine reproductive rights with its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The law makes it a Class 6 misdemeanor for anyone “prescribing or procuring a drug of abortion for a pregnant woman,” except to save the life of the mother. South Dakota is one of ten states that have banned abortion and has no exceptions for rape or incest.

The constitutional amendment would prevent the state from regulating abortions during the first trimester (0-13 weeks). During the second trimester (14-26 weeks), the state could regulate the decision to have an abortion, but any regulation must be reasonably related to the mother’s physical health. During the third trimester (27-40 weeks), abortion could be banned unless necessary to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman, her doctor said.

The fact that 11% of respondents are still undecided on such a prominent issue could be a sign that voters have questions about the details of the proposal, said Julia Hellwege, USD associate professor of political science and incoming director from the Chiesman Center.


Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, listens as Governor Kristi Noem delivers the State of the State address on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre, SD

Samantha Laurey / Argus leader

‘Closely associated’ with Roe v. Wade

Rep. Hansen has cited a lack of “safeguards” in the amendment, such as parental notification, waiting periods and informed consent, adding that the measure’s language is “much more extreme than Roe v. Wade itself.”

Weiland and others pushed back on that statement, saying the amendment uses the same trimester framework as Roe, the landmark 1973 ruling in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion before the viability of the fetus.

In South Dakota, before Dobbs and the trigger law, informed consent meant that doctors had to tell patients that women undergoing abortion procedures could experience depression and suicidal ideation and that the procedure would “take the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

These state restrictions were not allowed under Roe v. Wade.

They were adopted after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court decision that upheld the basic tenets of Roe but overturned the trimester framework and adopted a more flexible standard regarding whether state-imposed restrictions were constitutional.

Based on this, supporters can be taken literally when they say that South Dakota’s abortion amendment is an attempt to codify Roe v. Wade, said Hannah Haksgaard, a professor at the USD School of Law.

“The proposed amendment is very closely aligned with the original Roe v. Wade framework,” Haksgaard told News Watch in 2023. “The language mimics the trimester framework of Roe v. Wade and nothing in this amendment suggests abortion rights are more extreme than that. .”


Tiffany Campbell of Dakotans for Health (right) stands next to a security guard at a news conference on May 1, 2024, at the library in downtown Sioux Falls SD Campbell helped lead a petition for a ballot amendment to enshrine the right to abortion in the South Dakota Constitution.

Stu Whitney / South Dakota Watch News

Men and women show similar support

There wasn’t much difference between men’s and women’s attitudes in the most recent poll, with male voters supporting the abortion measure by a margin of 54% to 36% and women supporting it by 53% to 35%.

The November 2023 survey found that only 41% of women supported the measure, while 50% were against. Men were in favor by a margin of 51% to 37%.

Weiland said the stakes have been raised for women in South Dakota because of the 2024 presidential election and the Supreme Court weighing a case over the accessibility of mifepristone, the main drug used for abortions.

News Watch has reported that several hundred South Dakota residents have traveled to Minnesota for online consultations and prescriptions to terminate pregnancies since South Dakota’s ban went into effect. A crackdown on mail-order abortion pills could close another door for people seeking reproductive health care.

This story was produced by South Dakota News Watch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization. Read more in-depth stories at and sign up for an email every few days to receive stories as they are published. Contact Stu Whitney at [email protected].

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