Hello from the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families

Hi all,

My name is Shannon and I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for the next two weeks on Feministe. This is such an exciting opportunity for me to get the word out on yet another abortion ban in South Dakota and what’s being done to make sure these important and difficult decisions stay in the hands of a woman, her family and her doctor without Government intrusion.

First, a little background: I spent a little more than seven years of my career out of college as a television journalist in Sioux Falls, SD. I am a communications major from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went to college in Ohio and then came to South Dakota for my first reporting job. Things went well and my family and I chose to stay.

A little over a year ago, I decided it was time to try something new and I took a job as the South Dakota Community Organizer for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Just one week ago, I came over to the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families working in communications. I love what I do for both organizations and cannot wait to share with you the conditions on the ground here.

I was asked to be a guest blogger here because of the work that I do for www.standupsd.com. It’s PP’s little site dedicated to the ban we’re facing here.

In case you’re not already aware, voters will be deciding on November 4th if abortion should be illegal in our state. This is yet another attempt by a small group of extremists who want to push their ideology on the rest of the population. It’s something South Dakota has been dealing with for years. Perhaps you remember 2006 when we voted down another abortion ban by 12 points, speaking loud and clear that these are personal matters, not Government matters.

Regardless, VoteYesForLife.com managed to collect enough signatures to put a similar ban on the ballot once again in the form of Initiated Measure 11. This time, they say they’ve included “exceptions” in the measure, but that is false. The language of these so-called exceptions is so vague that this is in all actuality a sweeping ban on abortion. If it passes it will be the most rigid and inflexible ban on abortion in the United States.

Over the next two weeks I will share with you how things are progressing with the campaign against Initiated Measure 11. We can talk about the message we want the entire country to hear loud and clear: Let Families Decide.

Till next time…

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24 comments for “Hello from the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families

  1. August 11, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Welcome Shannon! I’m really excited that you were able to join us :)

  2. August 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm


  3. August 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

    I understand why the catchphrase “let families decide” was chosen, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Let women decide. Period. They don’t need “families” or “doctors” or “clergy” to “help” them make they decision. If a woman chooses to consult someone else about termination, fine. But the decision is always the woman’s, and the woman’s alone.

    This is not meant to be a slam on what you or PP is doing. I’m glad there is a coordinated effort in SD to fight this latest assult on women’s rights. I just wish there could be an intellectually honest debate about abortion in this country, where no one danced around the central proposition that women, in fact, should control their own destinies.

  4. Heron
    August 12, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Shannon, so excited to hear what you have to say. I’ve been following the initiative closely. SDCHF is amazing.

  5. Lisa
    August 12, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Shannon, could you address Neko’s comment? I was mulling this over as well when I read your post and I do think I get it – reaching the largest common denominator, etc…but it kind of reminds me of the contraception commercial that was posted this week. Women don’t generally use birth control to control their periods, but this is how pills are marketed. “Families” making decisions about abortion was also not the feminist goal of the reproductive rights movement….or at least it wasn’t the goal of under-privileged, non-middle class non-white women…add to that most middle class white women as well.

  6. Shannon
    August 12, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Neko and Lisa….

    Thank you so much for your interest in South Dakota and the fight to win the battle against the attack on Women’s Reproductive health care.

    As you probably know… a small group of anti-choice extremists are using our state to challenge Roe. They are going after our state because of our conservative nature and “family values.”

    We at the Campaign believe there is no place for the Government in these kinds of personal decisions.

  7. Lilly
    August 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    I linked up and read SD’s IM 11, and those exceptions are not vague at all. Shannon, you seem to be mis-representing this one. I snooped around a little more and found that there are anti-lifers opposing this because the exceptions have been added. If this really were a sweeping ban on all abortions, I doubt some anti-lifers would be opposing it. You are welcome here as a guest, but please try not to be disingenuous.

  8. Meritorious Brand
    August 12, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Welcome, Shannon! You’re doing a great job!

    I notice on your Planned Parenthood web site, there’s a video clip of Health Family co-chair Jan Nicolay reminding everyone that abortions are already prohibited after the first trimester in South Dakota. That’s terrible! I hope your group is seeking repeal of that, as well as opposing the new ban. Perhaps you could post a link on one of your sites to the existing law so everyone can understand how restrictive things are right now. I’d appreciate a link in the comments here, too, if you have the time. I didn’t know that any state banned them that early.

    I also see that KOTA Territory News (ABC) is promoting your efforts. Were you responsible for the press release they used for the story? If so, congratulations!

  9. August 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Lisa and Neko — I think that the changing of “women” to “families” serves more than one purpose. The first is that when you’re trying to persuade people, you have to work with your audience. A SD audience simply isn’t going to buy “let women decide” on a large scale. Sad, but the facts.

    The second is that a lot of pro-choice language (like the word “choice”) has been shown to not resonate with many women, particulary women of color and low income women, for various reasons (with WoC not all sharing one brain, of course it does resonate with some, and doesn’t resonate with some white women). I believe that it’s a part of the shift from a reproductive rights framework to a reproductive justice framework, recognizing that women don’t make these choices in a vaccum and that community involvement is important.

  10. Lisa
    August 12, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Cara, I do get that. I just think it’s really sad that “anti-choice extremists” get to determine the language that is used to describe reproductive rights issues. The fact that Shannon did not directly address what either Neko or I said reinforces how limiting that is.

    Anyway, I really respect the work you are doing Shannon! I do not want to detract from that at all by having a debate about language..it’s obvious that the work you are doing is very pressing and necessary.

  11. Kelsey
    August 12, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    “A SD audience simply isn’t going to buy “let women decide” on a large scale. Sad, but the facts.”

    I would say that statement is far from “the facts,” Cara. I don’t know what your experience in South Dakota has been, but as a life-long South Dakotan, I think a South Dakota might very well respond to “let women decide,” although I doubt they’ll ever be given an opportunity.

  12. Shannon
    August 12, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I appreciate all of this discussion and I want it to continue… here on this site…. across the nation and especially here in South Dakota. The conversations must continue.

  13. Le
    August 13, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Is Bill Napoli behind this new measure again? I wonder what he’s been up to since he had to deal with the rain of protest from his comment on his idea of an innocent rape victim.

    Shameless plug here… my blog on the 2006 controversy

  14. August 13, 2008 at 7:48 am

    You’re right that I don’t live there Kelsey, but I’ve seen the research first-hand, and it suggests otherwise, and quite strongly. I’m sorry if I came off as presumptuous, but the numbers I’ve seen are extremely compelling, and though I don’t work in South Dakota, I can assure you from my experience with the organization that Planned Parenthoods everywhere would greatly prefer to use a strong pro-choice message.

    Lilly, I do believe that you are the one who is wrong. I’ve personally written on this before, if you’re interested, and the exceptions are too vague, and they would hurt rape survivors immensely, and also put women with medical problems at risk. Shannon is correct. And of course she is welcome here — I and the other Feministe bloggers invited her.

  15. Kelsey
    August 13, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I’m not sure what research you’ve seen, Cara, but PPFA’s own research has shown that a pro-choice message can work, even in rural, conservative, and religious areas. I’m very well aware of what the ‘numbers’ look like in SD. The decision not to use a strong pro-choice message (although this message is certainly more pro-choice than the last go round) is a strategic one, but there is still plenty of room to debate the strategy.

  16. August 13, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Kelsey — sure there’s room for debate. There always is. The research I’ve seen is Planned Parenthood’s message testing in South Dakota around this initiative specifically. I’m not sure how confidential that is and so I don’t feel comfortable sharing anything more from it than I already have, but I stand by what I said about it.

  17. August 13, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I realized later that I ought to specify that I haven’t personally perused the raw data or anything, but I attended a presenation on the focus groups, the reserach, the polls, different messaging and how they made the decisions they made, with a comprehensive Q&A with the all of the “but what about . . .?” questions (a few of which I asked myself).

  18. Kelsey
    August 13, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I stand by my statements as well. As I said, I’m familiar with the numbers you’re referring to and I still think it’s far from a fact that South Dakotans wouldn’t buy a more pro-choice message.

  19. Henrietta G Tavish
    August 13, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Meritorious Brand,

    Jan Nicolay’s statement that abortions are currently banned in South Dakota after the first trimester is clearly a misrepresentation, as a state lacks the power to do so under Roe Wade.

    As to the KOTA story, it certainly reads like a press release so it’s a safe bet that the Campaign for Healthy Families or some other Planned Parenthood affiliate was responsible for its wording.

  20. Kelsey
    August 13, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    SDCL Sec. 34-23A-4 requires that abortions performed after 12 weeks take place in a hospital. So they aren’t banned (and they do take place), but Planned Parenthood can’t do them.

  21. Meritorius Brand
    August 14, 2008 at 11:16 am


    Thank you so much for the information! I hope, as you say, that there’s no ban. But the video clip of Ms. Nicolay saying that abortions are prohibited after the first trimester is very recent (March 2008), so I guess that law you cited must have been changed earlier this year. I’m sure the Campaign wouldn’t make a mistake about something as basic as that. In fact, from her tone, I’m guessing that part of the reason the press conference was called was to attack the new law. I hope they succeed!

  22. August 14, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Welcome, Shannon. I’m glad that you are going to spread the whole truth about measure 11 in the Coyote State. People think that what happens in South Dakota only matters to the people in that state. They are wrong. What happens in one state matters to everyone, and that includes all that are living in the other 49.

  23. Kelsey
    August 14, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    The ban that’s been proposed is a separate issue. No law has changed — we’ll be voting on that in November. The press conference in the video was called to talk about the ban that will be on the ballot. What Jan was trying to say (and I can understand the confusion) is that currently, it would be pretty much impossible for a woman who is past 12 weeks to obtain an elective, non-medical emergency abortion in South Dakota. She was trying to make the point that it’s already very difficult to obtain an abortion in South Dakota — thus, there’s no need to restrict further.

  24. Henrietta G. Tavish
    August 14, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Reading the current statute, it appears that an elective second-trimester must be done at a hospital (or if not available, a properly-equipped private physician’s office) to make sure a sufficient supply of blood is available. According to NARAL’s site, in 2005 Planned Parenthood entered into a consent decree allowing it to perform abortions up to 14 weeks and six days; the decree apparently recognized that the Sioux Falls facility had enough blood to perform abortions that late.

    This hardly indicates that second trimester abortions are “pretty much impossible,” or “prohibited” as Nicolay stated. They merely have to be performed in facilities having a sufficient blood supply.

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