Monday, October 30, 2006

A South Dakota ballot measure to ban almost all abortions in the state is likely to fail by a wide margin, a new poll says.

Fifty-two percent of 800 likely voters said they would vote “no” next week on a law banning all abortions except to save the life of a mother, according to the poll, conducted for the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D.

An additional 42 percent of voters said they would vote “yes” for the ban, and 6 percent were undecided, according to the survey, which had a margin of error of 3.5 percent and was released in the newspaper’s Sunday edition.

The poll shows that “voters are seeing through the campaign of misinformation and lies” from the ban’s supporters, said Jan Nicolay, co-chairwoman of South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. “There is a growing consensus that we should keep all options open for women whose health is in jeopardy and for victims of rape and incest.”

Leslee Unruh, campaign manager for VoteYesForLife .com, which supports the ban, said yesterday she’s seen recent polls that “show us neck and neck.”

“The only poll that counts is on Election Day, and we intend to win,” she said, adding that if yard signs, bumper stickers and other signs of support are any indication, the VoteYesForLife side is winning.

Earlier this year, South Dakota lawmakers passed a law making it a criminal offense to perform an abortion except to save the life of the mother. The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Michael Rounds, finds that “life begins at the time of conception” and that a pregnant mother and her unborn child “each possess a natural and inalienable right to life.”

The law is on the ballot because South Dakota law allows a newly passed law to be put before the voters if enough signatures are collected asking for it.

Pro-choice advocates see the law as a challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which says that it is unconstitutional for states to ban abortions. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which is part of the coalition opposing the ban, says the ban must be defeated to protect Roe and women’s right to have an abortion.

The campaign has been ugly at times. The VoteYesForLife Web site has posted pictures showing their “Vote Yes on 6 For Life” signs vandalized with a big black “X” or a red coat hanger. The coat hanger is a referral to pre-Roe days, when women reportedly used coat hangers to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies.

The Argus Leader said the new poll, taken by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, shows that opposition to the ban has grown stronger with time. A similar poll taken for the newspaper in July found that 47 percent of South Dakotans opposed the ban, 39 percent supported it and 14 percent were undecided.

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