South Dakota’s Referendum: A Potential Turning Point for the Pro-Life Movement


A recent poll in South Dakota has dealt a blow to pro-life advocates, showing that 53% of voters support a ballot measure that would establish a trimester system for legalizing abortion, while 35% oppose it. However, despite this setback, there are reasons to remain optimistic about the chances of a pro-life victory.

As the reddest state yet to have an abortion referendum, South Dakota presents the best opportunity for a pro-life win in the near term. The state’s strong Republican leanings and high voter turnout in presidential years could benefit the pro-life side. Governor Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune, both Republicans, could play a crucial role in shoring up support among conservatives.

The concept of status quo bias also works in favor of the pro-life side. People tend to be skeptical of change, and the side preserving the status quo tends to overperform polling. In this case, a “yes” vote would amend the South Dakota constitution to set up a trimester system for legalizing abortion, while a “no” vote would leave the state’s abortion ban in place.

Furthermore, the pro-abortion side has typically outspent the pro-life side by large margins in previous referendums. However, in South Dakota, the two sides are currently running evenly, with no significant spending disparities. This parity in fundraising could be a crucial factor in the outcome of the referendum.

Despite the challenges, the pro-life side should not give up on this race. A win in South Dakota would be a significant boost to the movement and could help to maintain momentum in the face of future challenges. The symbolic value of a much-needed victory is also important, as it would demonstrate the continued commitment of pro-life advocates to protecting human life.

Matthew Malec
Matthew Malec
Matthew Malec is a Research Assistant at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His work has been featured in City Journal and the New York Post.

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