SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The fall of Roe v. Wade over the summer has made abortion an unexpected factor in the 2022 midterm elections.
While the issue isn’t directly on the ballot for South Dakota voters, the South Dakota State University poll still asked voters about the topic now that a trigger ban on abortion is in effect in South Dakota. Director of the SDSU Poll, David Wiltse, was not surprised by the results.
“Our poll shows that South Dakotans are very evenly divided on kind of the question of what the pre-Dobbs status quo was where abortion was freely available throughout most of the country during that first trimester,” Wiltse said.
The poll, which was sent to a completely random sample of 14,000 voters in South Dakota and answered by 565, asked several questions on abortion. The first asked voters to provide their opinion on the following abortion policy options with answers ranging from “strongly oppose” to “strongly support”:
- Always illegal
- Legal in circumstances of rape and incest
- Legal in circumstances of danger to the health of the mother
- Legal in all circumstances in the first trimester
Wiltse said the results of the poll show that South Dakota is more “pro-life” than most states.
“So, we had, you know, 46% of South Dakotans supporting that Roe versus Wade era, and 42% of South Dakotans opposing it,” Wiltse said. “So, very, very closely divided. Most states, or I should say, at the national level, it’s about a 60-40 split. So, South Dakota is generally more pro-life.”
Dale Bartscher, the executive director for SD Right to Life, would agree that South Dakotans lean more toward restricting abortion access.
“There’s over a decade of polling that consistently shows that 75% of Americans actually believe there should be restrictions on Abortion. They want limitations on abortion for moral and scientific reasons,” Bartscher told KELOLAND News via email.
With the fall of Roe, Bartscher said that the organization’s work doesn’t stop just because abortion is banned in the state but rather is just beginning.
“This is a transitional moment in time because every human being deserves the chance to live,” Bartscher said.
The organization, which has the support of 17,000 “pro-life partners” across the state, is now focusing on crisis pregnancy centers and supporting Governor Kristi Noem’s Life.sd.gov website meant to provide pregnant people with resources and information on pregnancy.
While Bartscher says that most Americans support restrictions on abortion access, the SDSU poll found that regardless of party, 74% of South Dakotans overwhelmingly support adding exceptions for rape and incest into the existing ban. Of that majority, 65% of Republican responses supported the exception and 75% supported exceptions to preserve the health of the mother.
“And that’s, you know, that’s the trick for a lot of Republican officeholders, because there still are some substantial portions of the Republican electorate, particularly the Republican primary electorate, where they oppose those kinds of carve outs, especially in cases of rape and incest, which is, you know, the status quo right now, in South Dakota, given the trigger law,” Wiltse said.
In the polls conclusion it states that, “Republicans are generally unsupportive of abortion being ‘always illegal.’”
South Dakota Democrats on the other hand, like Democrats nationally, tend to be more homogenous on abortion, Wiltse added.
“They’ve become much more pro-choice than Republicans have pro-life. Now Republicans have shifted, there’s no question. Back in the 80s, both parties were divided. Democrats probably were a majority of pro-life folks at that point and both parties have polarized on that issue,” Wiltse said. “But the Republicans have not polarized as much. There’s always been a larger pro-choice contingent within the Republican Party than there has been a pro-life contingent within the Democratic Party. And that is particularly true today.”
When looking at the abortion question through the lens of gender, Wiltse said there is no gender gap on abortion in South Dakota.
The poll results show that 51% of women support access to abortion in the first trimester with 45% of men saying the same.
The SDSU Poll will continue to release their results the rest of the week with answers on Amendment D and Initiated Measure 27 expected Thursday and a look at long-term trends on Friday.