FRED DE SAM LAZARO, Correspondent, Twin Cities Public Television: Messages against abortion abound across the prairies and towns of South Dakota. There are displays like these 826 crosses in a fake cemetery representing the number of abortions each year in the state.
Last March, there was a move to reduce that number to almost zero. And on November 7th, voters will be asked to weigh in.
CAMPAIGNER: Hi, how are you today? Good. My name is Mandy. I'm with the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. I'm just going door-to-door tonight talking with folks about our state's abortion ban.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That abortion ban was approved by South Dakota lawmakers earlier this year. It would make the procedure illegal in all cases, except when pregnancy threatens a woman's life. Sponsors hoped it would be challenged legally and give a newly reconstituted Supreme Court the chance to use it to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
State Senator Julie Bartling.
STATE SENATOR JULIE BARTLING (D), South Dakota: There is a movement across this country on the wishes to save and protect the lives of unborn children. As you know, Justice Roberts and Justice Alito were just favorably placed on that bench.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Opponents of the new law did indeed plan a legal challenge, but more immediately they petitioned successfully to put the new law on the ballot as a referendum. That means voters would have the chance to vote "yes" if they want it to stand, "no" to throw it out.
CAMPAIGNER: We've got it on the ballot. We just need "no" votes. Thank you.
SOUTH DAKOTA RESIDENT: All right. Thanks.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: According to the most recent polls, 60 percent of South Dakota voters say they oppose abortion, but support for South Dakota's new antiabortion law drops to 39 percent, many people saying they're concerned that there are no exceptions for places where the woman's health is endangered or in cases of rape or incest.
Opponents of the new law have emphasized its lack of exceptions in their campaign.
ADVERTISEMENT NARRATOR: South Dakotans agree: Honor and protect human life. Reduce the number of abortions. But should a woman who's the victim of rape or incest be left with no option? What about the mother whose health would be seriously threatened?
DR. MARIA BELL, Gynecologic Oncology: This restrictive law only allows an abortion to prevent the death of a pregnant woman, not protect her health.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Gynecologist Maria Bell says the new law makes doctors afraid they'll be prosecuted for treating pregnant women with serious illnesses if that treatment leads to an abortion. She cited one of her recent cancer cases.
DR. MARIA BELL: The first case was a 32-year-old single mother of three who presented for her first prenatal visit at 12 weeks gestation. At the time of her first prenatal visit, she was diagnosed with a large cervical cancer. Unfortunately, by giving her radiation, that would cause an abortion. What does the physician recommend? You can see that this is a dilemma that is gut-wrenching.