Last November, South Dakota’s pro-life community was a united force. Conditions had changed significantly by the end of February, when the effort to ban almost all abortions in the state suffered its second major defeat in less than four months, this time through the votes of eight state senators who killed a bill in committee that would have banned virtually all abortions, except those involving pregnancies conceived in rape or incest, or in cases in which carrying a child to term could seriously harm or kill the mother.
This time, members of the state’s pro-life community were among those who helped to scuttle the bill.
The issue first came to a head during the 2006 legislative session, when South Dakota lawmakers passed a bill banning abortions, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed it into law. Abortion-rights groups responded by collecting enough signatures to force the issue onto the ballot that November. Polls correctly foretold the ban’s demise. They also gave some pro-life advocates cause for hope: Fifty-six percent who opposed the ban said they would support a measure that included exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
Thus, few doubted that pro-life lawmakers would try again when the state legislature convened in January. As the deadline neared for filing bills, copies of e-mails circulated through the capitol. Many were written by local...