To make your raisin bran soggier, here is the East River Concerned Citizens postcard attacking Rep. Kathy Tyler:

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (front), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

East River Concerned Citizens attack postcard (back), October 2014

(click to embiggen!)

ERCC PAC boss Spencer Cody continues the lie he began last March of calling Rep. Tyler a liar for daring to disagree with him on policy. Cody's own card is filled with lies:

  • Rep. Tyler actually voted for 2014's HB 1162 both times it came before the full House during the 2014 session. HB 1162 became law. The amendment for which Tyler voted on the House floor still said sex-selective abortions are wrong and against state policy.
  • 2014's HB 1180 did not require neutrality of "Pregnancy Health Centers." HB 1180 excluded organizations that provide adoption and/or abortion services from offering the state-mandated counseling. Pregnancy health centers are not neutral: state law empowers them to actively discourage abortion.
  • 2013's HB 1237 did not fix a loophole. Pre-1237, South Dakota's oppressive 72-hour waiting period was consistent for every woman seeking an abortion. HB 1237 created an exception forcing women to wait even longer if the waiting period included a weekend. The bill was a blatant ploy to punish women even further for seeking an abortion by maximizing the economic impact of having to take off work from regular shifts to seek this constitutionally protected medical procedure.

Given all these votes on the record, Rep. Kathy Tyler would appear to be perfectly "candid" and "up front" about her positions. Cody is implying that Rep. Tyler is a liar when she clearly is not... and when his own propaganda falls far from candor.

52 comments

I like Oren Lesmeister. The Democratic District 28 Senate candidate took time to talk to me about his politics in the middle of a hard-driving campaign. He spoke freely about most issues, and I can roll with most of his positions. On sheer image, he brings a rugged cowboy ethos that challenges the stereotype of Democrats as something other than true South Dakotan. With hat, cattle, and the mustache that I maintain would have added ten points to Larry Rhoden's and Chris Nelson's tallies, Lesmeister projects the image of the cowboy that many South Dakotans think they are.

Oren Lesmeister, Democrat for District 28 Senate.

Oren Lesmeister, Democrat for District 28 Senate.

But on two important question in our conversation, Lesmeister showed no desire to take the bull by the horns, exemplifying an uncowboylike weakness too common among South Dakota Democrats.

What sparked my interest in interviewing Lesmeister were the embarrassing racist comments of his opponent, Republican Representative Betty Olson. Democrat Joe Lowe of Rapid City has said her blanket insult to all Muslim Americans, as well as her perpetuation of the racist lie that President Obama is a Muslim, warrants her resignation.

I thought maybe Lesmeister would have something to say about Rep. Olson's racism. He did not. When we set up the interview, Lesmeister's diligent campaign manager, Ethan Marsland, ruled out any comment on the topic. When I spoke with Lesmeister directly, he maintained that line. When I asked if Lesmeister at least recognized that the President of the United States is a natural-born citizen, Lesmeister declined comment.

It's one thing not to want to get involved in another candidate's media storm. It's a similar thing not to want to go negative. But it's a whole 'nother thing to decline comment on a statement of fact, documented time and time again against a vile campaign of racist myth-making. We have a moral obligation to defend basic truth against both ignorance and malice. John McCain had the guts to challenge the "Obama is an Arab" lies of his own supporters in 2008; Oren Lesmeister should have the guts to challenge his opponent's lingering birtherism in 2014.

Lesmeister also let me down with his response on abortion. I ask candidates about abortion with trepidation, because I recognize that South Dakota Republicans like to use abortion to dog whistle their base and use emotion and pictures of babies to distract us from all their other awful policies. But abortion deserves attention, because Republicans (and some complicit Democrats) have imposed insulting, paternalistic, and dangerous restrictions on women's constitutional rights.

When I posed the general question about women's rights, Lesmeister's campaign manager paused our conversation for a muted confab with his candidate. When Lesmeister opened the line again, he spoke of the need for better enforcement of laws to protect women from violence and trafficking. When I redirected the question toward abortion restrictions like our 72-hour waiting period. Lesmeister said a legislator should never decide such issues. He said abortion is too big of an issue. He said he would not support any further legislative interference with abortion and would want any abortion measures submitted to the ballot so all voters can decide.

Lesmeister's response sounded very much like District 14 Democratic House candidate Chris McClure's position of leaving the status quo alone and not presuming as one man to comment on the appropriateness of legal restrictions on abortion. Like McClure's position, it sounds like a poorly cloaked dodge:

  1. You cannot say, "Legislators should not decide abortion," and then accept the decisions legislators have made on abortion.
  2. If abortion is so "big" that the Legislature should defer all rule-making to ballot initiatives, then what about gay rights, Medicaid expansion, education funding, or the state budget in toto, all of which were bigger issues in the 2014 Legislature than abortion? I see no constitutional or philosophical provision setting a bar of "bigness" over which the duly elected representatives of the people are incapable of intelligent discourse and lawmaking. I see political calculation that says, "I'm afraid voters will disagree with me, and I don't have the guts to defend my position."
  3. Candidates have an obligation to lead intelligent conversations. To shrug off a major question of the day by saying, "Let's do whatever the people want" avoids an intelligent and necessary conversation.
  4. Democrats have an obligation to change the narrative. Republicans like Betty Olson bank on our cowardice. They bank on our leaving their restrictions and stigmatization of abortion unchallenged. They bank on casual observers voting on unexamined emotional responses to shouts of "We love babies!" instead of vigorous public debate of the real constitutional implications of treating women as second-class citizens.

Rick Weiland is in a very different race from the Lesmeister–Olson tilt. Abortion hasn't figured prominently in the U.S. Senate race, but Weiland has not been afraid to distinguish himself from the field by saying he's the only candidate who would not repeal Roe v. Wade. He may not win on that issue, but he's getting the support he needs to have a fighting chance... and he's saying the right thing.

Weiland doesn't run around in a cowboy hat, but he isn't afraid to cowboy up on the issues.

When faced with misogyny and racism, "no comment" is not the right answer for cowboys, Democrats, South Dakotans, or anybody. When Betty Olson spreads a racist lie about the President, and when Betty Olson passes laws that hurt women, we have an obligation to point those facts out and encourage voters to reject her racism and misogyny.

15 comments

Anti-abortion crusaders are more concerned about political grandstanding than women's health outcomes. The Center for Reproductive Rights finds that states where such anti-abortion sentiments prevail in policymaking tend to have worse health outcomes for women and children.

Now the study doesn't say that abortion restrictions make women sick (although they should). The study simply affirms that policymakers like Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, and Larry Pressler who are willing to ignore scientific evidence that abortion bans don't reduce abortions will probably do a worse job of making evidence-based, effective public health policy.

State abortion restrictions and health outcomes for women and children, Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014.

Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014, p. 11.

In kinda-sorta good news, South Dakota is not the most oppressive place for women. Like Texas, we only have twelve of the fourteen restrictions on abortion considered by the researchers. Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have all fourteen; eight states have thirteen such restrictions.

9 comments

Two of South Dakota's most putrescent political creatures are showing signs of improving mental health.

Pat Powers continues to make progress recovering from his misguided affection for Chad Haber and Annette Bosworth. Today, Powers cheers South Dakota Right to Life's "absolute skewering" of the fake Libertarian attorney general candidate. Says SDRTL:

It is hard for us to imagine a likely scenario in which a legal team led by someone as inexperienced as Chad Haber would be successful in court against anti-life forces. He has zero experience for this position. Running for attorney general is not a game and should not be an avenue for some vindictive grudge match. Lives are on the line here. Our Anti-coercion law currently hangs in the balance as it makes its way through the courts with NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU just waiting for any sign of  weakness in any part of our legal defense. All it takes is one crooked pro-abortion judge to raise a legal issue with any of our existing or future pro-life laws to hold them up in court.  Be sure to pick your legal defense wisely [South Dakota Right to Life, quoted in Pat Powers, "South Dakota Right to Life Voter Guide...," Dakota War College, 2014.10.02].

Yet Powers's piling-on also hints that Chad Haber, too, may be lurching toward just a little integrity. Last year, as he graffiti'd the Internet with fake press to boost his wife's impending fake Senate campaign, Haber cobbled together a shoddy screed fabricating pro-life cred for Bosworth. Bosworth and Haber pandered to the pro-life vote during their doomed primary campaign. I always had the impression that neither Haber nor Bosworth really believed in any of their pro-life statements.

And now, when he should be scrambling for pro-life votes for himself, Haber refuses to respond to the South Dakota Right to Life questionnaire.

It's a beautiful day, so permit my some optimism: perhaps Haber has turned over a new leaf. Perhaps he has realized that he, the attorney general, and South Dakota have much bigger issues to worry about than one narrow-minded activist group's obsession with a handful of doomed lawsuits over their campaign to oppress women. Please tell me that's the case, Chad.

82 comments

Uh oh—Satanists.

Like many observers, Tim Gebhart wrote in June that the Hobby Lobby decision opens the door to exemptions from law for members of all sorts of religious sects on the basis of religious claims that the Hobby Lobby declared off limits to judicial inquiry.

I'm still waiting for our Lakota neighbors to head for their Hills with this precedent. But with an apt "I told you so," Gebhart this week gets to point to the Satanists, who are making a religious claim to an exemption from informed consent laws imposed on women seeking abortions in places like South Dakota:

The Satanic Temple... is specifically invoking Hobby Lobby for exemptions from state-mandated “informational” materials used as a part of informed consent.  It says it believes “the body is inviolable – subject to one’s own will alone” and the belief “is fundamental to our religious philosophy.”  It reasons that requiring women to receive “biased or false” information that is based on politics and not science is an “affront” to that belief [Tim Gebhart, "Not to Say I Told You So, But...," A Progressive on the Prairie, 2014.07.31].

How does a woman get out of the propaganda to which South Dakota law subjects her if she wants an abortion? She just hands this letter to her doctor, and poof! the Roberts-Alito court should excuse her from Leslee Unruh's fact-free sermons and South Dakota's insulting 72-hour waiting period.

Unfortunately, along with declaring sincere religious belief in inviolable bodily autonomy and supremacy of one's own scientific conclusions over state-mandated propaganda, the letter also declares one's adherence "to the principles of the Satanic Temple."

Great, just what Leslee Unruh, Gordon Howie, and Ted Cruz are hoping for: women seeking abortions to put in writing that they worship the Devil.

10 comments

South Dakota law requires women to wait 72 hoursand sometimes longer—to have an abortion. Only Utah forces women to delay their health care decisions that long.

Missouri tried to become the third state to impose a 72-hour abortion-waiting period on women. After years defending abortion restrictions and punting on his state legislature's war on women, Governor Jay Nixon finally drew the line and vetoed this abortion bill. Here's how Governor Nixon describes a 72-hour waiting period not quite as awful as South Dakota's:

[The bill] is a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women.

...I cannot condone the absence of an exceptoin for rape and incest in [the bill]. This glaring omission is wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances, and demonstrates a callous disregard for their wellbeing. It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare [Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, veto message, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period includes no exception for rape or incest. It additionally requires women to talk about their unwanted pregnancy with antagonistic strangers at unreliable anti-abortion propaganda centers, a forced "counseling" session that  likely exacerbates the victimization Governor Nixon says no government should impose.

Governor Nixon also smells big-government sexism in this bill:

Underlying this bill, and the expansion of the governmental interference it would mandate, is a paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them, and that government must force them to take more time to come to grips with their plight. That misplaced paternalism defies logic [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Such logic applies to all women, not just crime victims: South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period, plus extensions for weekends and holidays, assumes that all women are too stupid to make their own decisions. (Remember: South Dakota forces no man to wait for a medical procedure.)

Governor Nixon still tolerates Missouri's 24-hour government intrusion on women's autonomy, but he says extending that waiting period is nothing but insulting cruelty:

Lengthening the mandate to "at least" 72 hours serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota imposes exactly that emotional and financial hardship on women seeking abortions, and not out of compassion.

Speaking of compassion, making women wait longer for abortions puts their health at greater risk:

A mandate that moves the procedure to a time later in a pregnancy increases the risk of complications. Lengthening the mandated delay is in contravention of sound medical advice and forces government even further into the relationship between the physician and the woman. A woman's health could be unnecessarily jeopardized by extending the mandatory delay [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Governor Nixon's veto of a 72-hour waiting period for abortion neatly summarizes every point Susan Wismer, Corinna Robinson, and every other woman running for statewide office in South Dakota needs to make about the Republican war on women. South Dakota's abortion law insults women's intelligence, puts government between women and their doctors, and puts women at greater risk of injury and death.

25 comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCullen v. Coakley yesterday that a Massachusetts law prohibiting free-speech activities within 35 feet of the entrance or driveway of an abortion clinic violates the First Amendment.

The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate inter­ests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petition­ers’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of com­municating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposi­tion to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vocifer­ous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively sti­fled petitioners’ message [emphasis mine; Chief Justice John Roberts, McCullen v. Coakley, 2014.06.26].

Great. Awesome. From this ruling, we may logically and legally conclude that...

  1. South Dakota's ban on free speech within 1,000 feet of funerals is unconstitutional... as long as the Westboro Baptist Church can restyle its followers as petitioners, not protestors, and gear down from shouting to simply handing out pamphlets and seek to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations about how God hates fags and killed your son in Iraq because of gay marriage.
  2. Free speech zones outside political conventions and Presidential appearances are unconstitutional. I'm a petitioner, and laws do not trump my First Amendment right to approach the President, nominees for President, political party members, and anyone else attending such events and seek a personal, caring, consensual conversation.
  3. Peddling (petitioning for?) smut at an LGBT Pride Festival within 35 feet of children is perfectly constitutional. As long as smut peddlers aren't blocking the flow of traffic and are speaking in personal, caring tones, they're safe under the First Amendment. Wait... I already knew that... offensive, but constitutional.

I find the notion that the Supreme Court is covering for anti-abortion coercers bothersome. But I can't impugn their First Amendment logic. I will only ask that they extend that logic across the board... and that the beneficiaries of that First Amendment protection respect the civil boundaries the Court assumes petitioners will observe.

30 comments

Readers have asked where Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joe Lowe and Susan Wismer stand on women's reproductive rights. Bob Mercer gives us some insight on that issue by asking Lowe and Wismer what one abortion-related law they would pass, repeal, or change. Their answers:

Joe Lowe: I would repeal the need for pregnancy help centers and a waiting period. Men and women are smart enough to make family decisions for themselves — without government telling them what to do with their private lives.

Susan Wismer: I would propose legislation that encourages safe and healthy family planning for all South Dakotans. Women, their doctors and their families are able to make the best decisions for the future of their families without intrusion by our state government [Bob Mercer, "Lowe, Wismer Vie for Dem Nomination for Governor," Aberdeen American News, 2014.06.01].

Note that once again, Lowe beats Wismer on specifics, directly attacking South Dakota's most recent and offensive restrictions on women's autonomy and equal citizenship. But remember: in 2011, Rep. Wismer voted against HB 1217, the bill that brought us that offense. We can assume from Wismer's statement about state government intrusion that she would vote that way again... but Lowe doesn't leave us assuming.

(Note also Mercer's editorial choice, placing the abortion question first. Line that prioritization up with his May 21 coverage of the Brookings forum, in which he deemed the choice of Lieutenant Governor and positions on the death penalty. Given all the issues with which a governor deals, are those three questions really the headliners?)

80 comments

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