South Dakota: TV Ad Challenged As False and Misleading

Kate Looby

Kate Looby is the South Dakota State Director for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS). With this post she begins a regular series of updates she will provide Rewire about the South Dakota ballot initiative.

The voters of South Dakota are being asked to decide whether or not they support a near total ban on abortion in our state. The only exception in the ban is to save the life of the woman. Section 3 of the bill which passed through the legislature and which Governor Rounds signed last winter does allow for the use of contraception - most of us weren't aware that we needed permission from the legislature to use birth control, but the opponents of legal abortion found it necessary to mention that in the bill.

Kate Looby is the South Dakota State Director for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS). With this post she begins a regular series of updates she will provide Rewire about the South Dakota ballot initiative.

The voters of South Dakota are being asked to decide whether or not they support a near total ban on abortion in our state. The only exception in the ban is to save the life of the woman. Section 3 of the bill which passed through the legislature and which Governor Rounds signed last winter does allow for the use of contraception – most of us weren't aware that we needed permission from the legislature to use birth control, but the opponents of legal abortion found it necessary to mention that in the bill.

South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families (SDCHF) is the ballot committee which collected enough signatures, in fact more than twice as many as needed, to place the law on the ballot before it took effect. SDCHF was formed by a group of concerned citizens and organizations in SD. We are led by men and women from different political parties, various professions and from all corners of the state.

The position of SDCHF is that this law is too rigid and too restrictive. It has no exceptions for victims of rape and incest or to preserve the health of the woman. SDCHF has a television ad which began running recently. The group organized to support the ban, Vote Yes for Life, has sent a letter from their attorney to all of the television stations and to the state's Attorney General, claiming that the ad is "false and misleading" and requesting that the station "exercise its duty to protect the public and immediately remove the Advertisement from the public airwaves."

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They object to the ad because it points out clearly that for victims of rape and incest and women whose health is put at risk by continuing the pregnancy, there are no options. This is in fact the truth, but they contend that because emergency contraception (EC) is "specifically authorized" in the law, that women do have options in South Dakota.

Our opponents in South Dakota have never wanted to get themselves bogged down by the facts before; it's quite surprising to see them employ this strategy against us. These are the same people who have fought us for years over EC in the Emergency Room by making the claim that EC is the same as abortion. Now they are clinging to EC as the tool that they hope will save their abortion ban. My how things change. I believe the voters will see right through them.

Analysis Politics

Conservative Attacks on Voting and Abortion Rights Share Tactics, Goals

Ally Boguhn

The pushes for voting and abortion restrictions use similar tactics, slowly eroding the rights of women, people of color, and those with low incomes in particular.

During a May interview with the Texas Observer‘s Alexa Garcia-Ditta, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards didn’t skip a beat when pointing to the likely effect of voting restrictions.

“One of the greatest challenges, absolutely, in the state of Texas is the enormous hurdles that people have to go through to vote, and the fact that in the last election, we were 50th in voter turnout of 50 states,” said Richards. “That’s appalling. When 28 percent of the voters go to the polls, the democratic process isn’t working, it’s completely broken. I believe we have to completely address voting rights in this country, and in Texas.”

Texas is one of 17 states to implement new voting restrictions, such as voter identification laws and reduced early voting, for the first time during the 2016 presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute at New York University’s School of Law. Those states include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Voting and Abortion Restrictions

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“This is part of a broader movement to curtail voting rights, which began after the 2010 election, when state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote,” explains the Brennan Center’s website. “Overall, 22 states have new restrictions in effect since the 2010 midterm election.”

The Republican-led charge to roll back voting rights has been fairly transparent in its goal of suppressing Democratic votes, specifically targeting voters of color and those living in poverty—a goal only made easier after the Supreme Court gutted parts of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that safeguarded against these strategies in a 2013 decision.

In April, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) told a local news network that his state’s new voter ID law would make “a difference” in electing members of his party in November. And he is hardly the first Republican to admit that the party is utilizing this strategy in order to gain power.

Efforts to enact voting restrictions have begun to gain steam, increasingly in many of the same places where abortion restrictions are also being passed. And reproductive rights and justice advocates are taking notice. NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2012 noted that efforts to chip away at voting rights effectively silence the ability of many to weigh in on decisions regarding their bodies.

“Americans defend the right to choose by lobbying their elected officials, taking action in their communities, and participating in the public debate, but no single deed is as central to the civic process as the simple act of casting a vote,” Nancy Keenan, then president of NARAL, said in a statement announcing the decision. “That is why recent efforts to restrict citizens’ access to the ballot box are so dangerous. These measures threaten to deny millions of Americans the right to vote, silencing their voices as the nation debates our most cherished freedoms, including the right of every woman to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices.”

Ilyse Hogue, NARAL’s current president, reaffirmed this commitment after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision on the VRA, explaining in a statement that year that the organization believes “that participation in the political process is a constitutional right that empowers Americans to elect leaders who represent their interests in important areas such as reproductive rights.”

When thousands joined the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina in February 2014 to protest conservative policies such as the state’s restrictive voter suppression laws, Planned Parenthood was among the event’s 150 coalition partners. In a piece for the Huffington Post, Richards explained why it was imperative for her organization to get involved.

“For Planned Parenthood, the ideology behind these measures is all too familiar. They were put in place by politicians who would rather transport us through a time warp where only the privileged few have access to fundamental American rights,” wrote Richards. “Many of those states [passing voting restrictions] are the same ones passing restriction after restriction on women’s access to health care.”

“The history of our country shows that we are better off when everyone has a voice in our political process. We continue to stand with our partners in calling for laws that make it easier—not harder—to vote,” Richards continued.

As the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections brought a wave of voting restrictions, a crush of anti-choice laws similarly swept the country. Since those elections, an unprecedented 288 state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted.

“To put that number in context, states adopted nearly as many abortion restrictions during the last five years (288 enacted 2011-2015) as during the entire previous 15 years (292 enacted 1995-2010),” Guttmacher researchers explained in a recent report outlining the state of reproductive rights in the country.

The pushes for voting and abortion restrictions use similar tactics, slowly eroding the rights of women, people of color, and those with low incomes. “It’s a ‘death by 1000 cuts’ strategy,” Heather Gerken, a professor at Yale Law School, told MSNBC of the two issues in 2014. “For both of these rights, you’re not allowed to ban it. So in each instance you’re just making it harder than it would be otherwise.”

Conservatives have been able to do this by leveraging misinformation about the two issues. Abortion and voting restrictions “both address manufactured problems,” Sondra Goldschein, director of advocacy and policy at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Rewire. “They have thinly veiled excuses for introducing them. Whether it’s unproven voter fraud or concerns about women, the legislation is clearly about taking away rights, particularly in marginalized communities.”

For example, many voting restrictions are implemented based on false claims about the prevalence of voting fraud. In Wisconsin, where as many as 300,000 registered voters stand to be disenfranchised by the state’s restrictive voter ID law, Republican Gov. Scott Walker justified suppressing the vote by citing instances of fraudulent voting. When challenged in court, the state was unable to come up with a single case of voter impersonation.

That is likely because in Wisconsin, like in the rest of the country, voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. Study after study has found little to no evidence to support the claim. An analysis conducted by the Washington Post‘s Justin Levitt in 2014 found just 31 instances of voter fraud in the more than one billion ballots cast between the years 2000 and 2014.

Many abortion restrictions are similarly based on the perpetuation of misinformation, which are often based on conservatives feigning concern for women’s health. Wisconsin provides yet another prime example of this with its 2013 targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law, which required all doctors performing abortions in the state to obtain admitting privileges to hospitals within a 30-mile range, justified by claims of safeguarding women’s health. But when the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional in 2015, Judge Richard Posner, writing for the majority, noted that the medical necessity for such laws is “nonexistent” and the regulations were instead meant to impede abortion access.

“They may do this in the name of protecting the health of women who have abortions, yet as in this case the specific measures they support may do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” wrote Posner.

Though it’s often clear that legislation to restrict access to the polls and abortion share similar goals and tactics—employing misinformation, attempting to dissuade people from access by making doing so too expensive or burdensome, and so on—in some cases, states are borrowing from the exact same playbooks to make laws to get their way. In Texas, where there is already a strict voter ID law, the state passed another law in 2015 requiring abortion providers to ask for “valid government record of identification” from patients to prove they are 18 before providing care. The process of obtaining a valid form of ID is often difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, especially for those in marginalized communities.

Much like the case for voting restrictions, abortion restrictions help white men maintain the status quo of power across the country. Drawing connections between between voting restrictions and TRAP laws in Texas, then-Rewire reporter Andrea Grimes, who now works for the Texas Observer, noted on the RJ Court Watch podcast that both conservative restrictions help ensure those in power maintain their positions.

“We [in Texas] have some of the strictest TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) legislation in the country. At the same time we have what one federal judge straight up called racist and unconstitutional voter ID requirements that prevent people from being able to get out to the polls and cast their votes,” said Grimes. “And these two things together kind of ensure that power stays with the powerful. That’s what we’re seeing right now here.”

“[B]oth voting rights and abortion access involve fundamental rights,” added Jessica Mason Pieklo, Rewire‘s vice president of law and the courts. “In theory, fundamental rights are fundamental. They are things that we all hold but really what we’re talking about is access to power. So when we place restrictions on those rights, we make it harder to exercise them—which makes it harder to effectively engage our civic power.”

When framed as a desperate attempt by the GOP to maintain a hold on their power dynamics, it comes as no surprise that many of the very same states pushing through voting restrictions are also moving to restrict abortion access. During 2015 alone, 57 abortion restrictions were enacted across the country. Of the massive push to restrict abortion since 2010, ten states enacted more than ten restrictions: Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Alabama, and North Carolina.

These lists have remarkable crossover with the states that have enacted new voting restrictions in that same period of time: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The end result for both kinds of restrictions is the same: a massive sweep of nationwide changes chipping away at the fundamental rights of Americans and disproportionately affecting women, communities of color, and those living in poverty.
Those pushing through these laws “are not just focusing on one state, but they are looking at creating change across the whole country, through each individual state-by-state attack on these fundamental freedoms,” explained Goldschein.

Goldschein went on to note that conservatives’ success in pushing these restrictions demonstrates the importance of voting, especially for down-ballot seats in the state legislature where many of these decisions are made. “State legislatures are ground zero in the fight for civil liberties, and they do not always attract as much attention as the debates in Congress or arguments in the Supreme Court, but in fact they are really the source of unprecedented assaults on our most fundamental rights,” she explained.

“This year … 80 percent of our state legislature seats are up for re-election, and we need voters to be paying attention to what is happening in those state legislatures and then to hold politicians accountable and vote as if their liberties depend on it—because they do—because this is where these fights are taking place.”

Analysis Politics

Campaign Fact-Check: Would Cruz Ban Abortion as President?

Ally Boguhn

Taking Ted Cruz’s assertion that banning abortion should be a decision left up to voters at face value ignores the candidate's drumbeat of extremism on the topic.

Appearing on a special town hall edition of Fox News’ Kelly File Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) fielded a question from an audience member asking whether he would outlaw abortion if elected president. The next day, Fox ran an article misleadingly claiming that Cruz said “he wouldn’t make abortion illegal, if elected president, though he is pro-life.”

In truth, Cruz’s answer carefully downplayed his anti-choice record in order to claim that decision should ultimately be left up to voters “at the ballot box”:

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I consider myself a moderate Republican and I’m pro-choice. One of my fears and concerns is that if you become president, you may make abortion illegal nationwide. So, what’s your message to me and other women and men regarding that issue and that fear?

CRUZ: Thank you for joining us, thank you for coming out. You know, the issue of life has been an issue that has torn this country apart for many, many decades. And my view, I’m pro-life, I believe that we should protect every human life and we should protect every life from the moment of conception.

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And I will say, there is more and more consensus we’re seeing on this issue, as we see, for example, people coming together to bar extreme practices, things like “partial-birth abortion,” where we’re saying large consensuses of American people saying this practice is gruesome, it’s barbaric. It is my hope that we see people’s hearts and minds change, but this is an issue where it’s going to take time for people’s hearts and minds to change. That if you’re going to change a major issue of public policy, the way to do so, I believe, is at the ballot box.

You know, I have, my whole life I have been a passionate defender of the Constitution and I think judicial activism is wrong. One of the worst things about the Supreme Court in 1973 stepping in and seizing this issue is it took it out of control of the people. It said that five unelected judges will decide this issue, rather than 330 million Americans. I believe under our Constitution we have a democratic society, and that if someone wants to pass legislation limiting or expanding abortion, the way to do that is to convince your fellow citizens to make the case at the ballot box. And I think that ultimately is the check for both your views and my views that you’ve got to convince our fellow citizens, but I think all of us should agree that it’s a much better system to have important public policy issues decided by the people at the ballot box rather than five unelected lawyers just imposing their views on everybody else.

First, Cruz points to so-called partial-birth abortion, an inflammatory non-medical term used to describe the dilation and extraction abortion procedure (D and X). The National Right to Life Committee coined the term in 1995 in order to make passing anti-abortion laws easier. President George W. Bush signed a ban on the procedure into law in 2003, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision, though the law contains no exact medical definition of what the procedure is, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Taking Cruz’s assertion that banning abortion should be a decision left up to voters at face value ignores the candidate’s drumbeat of extremism on the topic. Just two months ago, Cruz released a nearly five-minute long anti-choice video in which, contrary to his statements on the Kelly File, he vowed to “do everything” within his power as president to end abortion if elected.

“As president of the United States, I pledge to you that I will do everything within my power to end the scourge of abortion once and for all,” claimed Cruz in the video. “That I will use the full constitutional power and the bully pulpit of the presidency to promote a culture of life. That I will sign any legislation put on my desk to defend the least of these, including legislation that defends the right of all persons, without exception other than the life of the mother, from conception to natural death.”

On the campaign trail, Cruz consistently promotes anti-choice extremism as a key component of his platform. The Republican presidential candidate even announced in January the formation of “Pro-Lifers for Cruz,” a coalition of anti-choice proponents led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and including Troy Newman, head of the radical group Operation Rescue.

The Texas senator’s self-defined “pro-life” commitment has prompted him to support numerous pieces of legislation that would effectively ban abortion. Cruz’s February campaign video included a note about “enthusiastically supporting” a South Carolina “personhood” bill that would give fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs full constitutional rights, ending legal abortion and access to many forms of hormonal birth control, such as the pill and IUD. Cruz threw his support behind a similar measure in Georgia in August. In December, Cruz told Catholic television station EWTN that congressional action on a personhood measure could “absolutely” be used in order to ban abortion. Given Cruz’s vow to sign all anti-choice measures, it is likely such a bill would become law under his presidency—leading to a nationwide abortion ban.