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Group starts petition drive for 2024 abortion rights question

Dakotans For Health organizers register circulators for a petition to put abortion rights on the 2024 ballot
Lee Strubinger
Dakotans For Health organizers register circulators for a petition to put abortion rights on the 2024 ballot

The 2022 midterm election is on Tuesday, but some are already looking ahead to 2024. 

Dozens gathered in downtown Sioux Falls to pick up the first batch of petitions to place abortion rights on the ballot. 

When the U.S. Supreme court overturned Roe V. Wade they returned abortion policy back to the states. 

That triggered South Dakota’s near total abortion ban—passed by lawmakers in 2005. South Dakotan’s twice rejected similar bans. 

The petition drive is backed by Dakotans For Health. Rick Weiland is an organizer. He said the current abortion law, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest, is too restrictive. 

“The only exception in South Dakota to terminate a pregnancy is when the life of the mother is on the line. We’re going to try to change that,” Weiland said. “We think this is a decision that the people should decide. not the politicians. not through trigger laws. Give them a vote. Roe V. Wade has been a 50-year legal precedent.” 

The proposed South Dakota petition places the Roe V. Wade decision into the state constitution. That 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision established the constitutional right for access to abortion. 

The proposal prohibits abortion restrictions during the first trimester, restrictions in the second and allows for lawmakers to prohibit third trimester abortions. 

Supporters are hopeful the question will land on the 2024 ballot and get passed by the voters. Kat Walsh is a Sioux Falls resident. Clutching her packet of blank petitions, Walsh said she’s upset with the state’s abortion law. 

 “This is completely, completely wrong,” Walsh said. “We have to fight back. We’ve got to get this back on the ballot. We’ve been pro-choice. We’ve always been. This has got to get back on the ballot and we’re going to do it.” 

Saturday was the first day petition signature gatherers were able to circulate petitions for the 2024 election. Circulators must gather signatures equal to ten percent of total vote for governor in the previous election. 

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.