Nebula Group labors on Labor Day producing press releases for two of its South Dakota Legislative candidates. District 12 House candidate Ellee Spawn announces that Senator Tim Johnson has endorsed her. Spawn also cites endorsements from Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls), Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford), and lieutenant governor candidate Susy Blake.

Meanwhile, District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page opens fire on Klan-shielding Republican Senator Phil Jensen. Campaign consultant and Nebula boss Bajun Mavalwalla portrays Jensen as the kid no one wants to play with.

“Look, there is no denying that Jensen is simply beyond the pale and the Republicans want to get rid of him. He’s an embarrassment to the South Dakota GOP who don’t want to be associated with him.”

Prominent Republicans from across the state are distancing themselves from him. “I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values,” Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard said “I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does.”

“No one wants to be associated with him. Who wants their State Senator to be a pariah?” said Mavalwalla [Robin Page for District 33 Senate Campaign, press release, 2014.09.02].

The press releases tout both Spawn's and Page's support for raising the minimum wage. Spawn also mentions South Dakota's rock-bottom teacher pay as an issue worth considering on Labor Day.

Nebula Group has announced its work for four South Dakota candidates so far: Spawn, Page, Valerie Loudenback for District 14 House, and Angelia Schultz for Secretary of State. All Democrats, and all women. (It's probably sexist of me to notice, since I've never mentioned a campaign outfit whose candidates are all men.) Could Nebula be trying to capitalize on the gender gap that all of the national GOP's rebranding can't close?

A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

Women are “barely receptive” to Republicans’ policies, and the party does “especially poorly” with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO....

When female voters are asked who “wants to make health care more affordable,” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage, and a 40 percent advantage on who “looks out for the interests of women.” Democrats have a 39 percent advantage when it comes to who “is tolerant of other people’s lifestyles.”

Female voters who care about the top four issues — the economy, health care, education and jobs — vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise [Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, "GOP Poll of Women: Party 'Stuck in Past'," Politico, 2014.08.29].

The GOP poll and Politico chatter focuses on opportunities for Congressional office seekers and Hillary Clinton to capitalize on Republican Neanderthalism, but perhaps Nebula's client choices in South Dakota signal their view that some feminine mosquitoes can sting the GOP in state-level races.

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Looking for the oldest moms in South Dakota? Odds are you'll find them in Eureka:

Average Age of Mother by SD County 2008-2012

Source: South Dakota Department of Health (click to embiggen!)

McPherson County has the highest average age of ladies making babies over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. New McPherson moms are a ripe old 30.0 years on average. Also waiting the longest to put buns in the oven are women in Hanson, Faulk, and Campbell counties.

The youngest moms are in Indian Country. Shannon/Oglala Lakota County has the lowest average baby-making age in the state, 24.2. Nearby Mellette, Todd, and Bennett counties also have average mother ages under 25.

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Following our extensive discussions of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, and amidst the heat and bother over Gordon Howie's statement that life begins before sperm meets egg, Larry Kurtz sent me an essay by the Guardian's Jessica Valenti arguing that we shouldn't use health reasons as an excuse to protect women's access to contraception. We defenders of women's rights facilitate the fundi-puritan narrative, Valenti says, when we shy away from stating the obvious: women deserve to enjoy sex without the fear of getting pregnant, just like men.

It's also OK – wonderful, even! – that women use birth control to have sex and not get pregnant. Even more wonderful: it works. The advent of contraception is arguably the most important liberatory discovery for women of all time. We're allowed to use it. And not just for our periods – but to have hot, sweaty, fantastic, fun, non-procreative sex. That doesn't make us "sluts"; it makes us human [Jessica Valenti, "Women Like Sex: Stop Making 'Health' Excuses for Why We Use Birth Control," The Guardian, 2014.07.08].

Dang—adopting Valenti's courageous stance means we all have to stop thinking sex naughty. (Uh oh: someone is going to unload on me for that one!)

Sioux Falls writer Dianna E. Anderson calls the "American evangelical purity culture" patently absurd. In a post on contraception and intentionality, Anderson writes that the crowd that cheers Hobby Lobby's anti-contraceptive discrimination against women thinks using birth control is worse than unplanned hookups:

The rules about keeping oneself pure end up creating a world where unsafe, “unintentional” sex is better than sex that you plan to have and embrace fully. Sex in the heat of the moment can be excused, written off as a good person getting caught up in emotion. But sex that you plan for, sex that you intend to be safe and protected? That evinces a moral failing of the person, as someone deliberately choosing to disobey God [Dianna E. Anderson, "Unlearning Purity Culture: Intentionality," blog, 2014.07.16].

Andersons sees stronger, healthier sexual ethics in taking control of one's sex life, talking about and planning what one does with one's partner, rather than viewing oneself as a "passive receiver" of that thing that just kinda happened. Sex based on intentionality means women experience less fear and more empowerment.

Less fear and more empowerment—I look at my wife and daughter and think, "What could be wrong with that?

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Chuck Clement finds a couple of honyockers preaching on the bypass in Madison. The basic gist of their bad theology: remarried divorcees are adulterers, women should shut up, and salvation depends on your action, not God's:

Two men who are working in South Dakota this summer paid a proselytizing visit to Madison on Tuesday. Wilbur Graybill and Ryan Luedeker, both Missouri residents, held signs displaying a few of the tenets held by the Church of Monett, a religious institution located in a southwestern Missouri community.

Holding one white placard with black lettering that announced "To be married to the divorced is adultery," Graybill said the sayings displayed on the hand-held sign followed Jesus Christ's teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. Other sayings on Graybill's signs included "True Christians don't use guns or lawyers against evil," "Christian women are meek, quiet and modestly dressed" and "You must change for Christ to accept you" [Chuck Clement, "Missouri Men Preach Along SD-34 Bypass," Madison Daily Leader, 2014.07.09].

I invite Deb Geelsdottir, about whose clothing I cannot pass judgment but who has struck me in the comment section as anything but meek and quiet, to offer a Lutheran explanation of the mechanism by which Christ "accepts" us. I also invite readers to share the Scripture where the Lord says, "Don't ever hire an attorney."

I also recommend these men be careful which Madison women they call un-Christian for not being meek and quiet... and I warn them to say no such thing to my daughter, whom my wife and I will continue to teach to resist such patriarchal oppression. They might also want to watch out for my Christian friends who've married fine people who happened to have bad marriages before who raise good kids and uphold Christian principles.

The Missouri preachers make a fair point that signs are an easy way to get attention and reach lots of people. But I hope they complement their public display with a willingness to engage in honest conversation face to face with the sinners whom they condemn... assuming they are willing to even entertain a conversation with a woman who disagrees with their preaching.

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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.

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Julie Rovner follows up on a report she did for NPR in 2012 noting that Hobby Lobby and other corporations who want to deny women coverage for birth control are still discriminating on the basis of sex and pregnancy under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as determined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2000. Furthermore, 28 states require insurers to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices; 20 of those states offer religious exemptions, just as the Affordable Care Act did before yesterday's Hobby Lobby ruling, but few if any go as far as saying private corporations can hold religious beliefs and get out of covering contraception.

South Dakota has no such independent contraceptive requirement for insurance policies. Rep. Joni Cutler tried to create one with House Bill 1156 in 2010, but the bill did not pass the House. Senator Ed Olson offered a more general defense of contraception in 2008 with Senate Bill 164:

...It is the public policy of this state that the interest in freedom from unreasonable government intrusions into the private lives of citizens, and specifically the right of consenting individuals to obtain and use safe and effective methods of contraception without interference by governmental entities, shall be safeguarded and that the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to recognize and protect these rights [2008 SB 164, Section 2(3)].

Senator Olson's bill also would have clarified that contraception is not governed by South Dakota's abortion statutes, including the statute that allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions if they think those prescriptions will be used for abortions... the same false pretext under which Hobby Lobby won its battle in the war on women before the Supreme Court yesterday.

Worth noting: both Olson and Cutler are Republicans. They are no longer in the Legislature, but they demonstrate that when South Dakota Democrats blast the Hobby Lobby ruling and demand that health care decisions be made by women and their doctors, not their bosses, they can find a few allies and win a few votes across the aisle.

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Subversion and hooch afoot! Unapologetic liberals are gathering for libations at Wiley's Tavern at 330 North Main in Sioux Falls after work today, 5 p.m., as they reconstitute the Sioux Falls chapter of Drinking Liberally. Among topics that may stir conversation:

The National Partnership for Women and Families finds South Dakota is one of the crappiest places to be a working mom:

NPWF grades for working mom conditions June 2014

Grades by state for legal protections for working mothers, based on state laws on family leave, sick leave, and other family issues. Data from National Partnership for Women and Families; map from Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hmm... probably won't see Governor Daugaard plastering that map on a banner ad for South Dakota in the Minneapolis airport... where NPWF finds much better conditions for working moms.

The Affordable Care Act still hasn't caught the United States up with other countries in terms of quality health care. For the fifth year in a row, the U.S. ranks last in the Commonwealth Fund's scoring of eleven industrialized nations' health care systems.

health-ranking 2013

(Click to embiggen!)

Continuing a long-standing trend (compare the numbers from 2010), the United States continues to spend far more (50% more than extravagant Switzerland, 88% more than colder Canada, 150% more than clammier Great Britain) per capita on health care than any of our industrialized counterparts. Interestingly, many of those countries also drink more alcohol per capita than we do. Hmm... Drinking Liberally Sioux Falls, what can you do about that?

Of course we know poor working-parent policy, inefficient health care, and all of our other problems are caused by irrational, ignorant, unempathetic conservatives... or are they? Discuss, tonight, Willy's Tavern, 5 p.m.!

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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?)

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