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Abortion Policy: An Upper Midwestern Snapshot

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In South Dakota a landmark petitioned referendum will be on the ballot this November, asking voters whether or not to uphold the recently signed State House Bill's abortion ban. Mid-summer polling on the referendum—which does not provide exceptions for rape and incest—suggests the referendum may not pass, with those inclined to vote 'nay' holding an eight-point advantage (KELO-TV / Argus Leader). So, just how supportive is the Upper Midwest of a woman's right to choose?

South Dakotans equally self-identify as pro-life (48%) as pro-choice (48%), followed by Iowans (41% / 54%), Minnesotans (40% / 55% ), and Wisconsinites (39% / 56%) (SurveyUSA). But how do these labels 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' translate into policy positions?

It appears many Upper Midwesterners who are pro-life still view abortion as a personal choice. The vast majority of residents of each state feel the state and federal government should not have the final say on the matter (72% in Iowa, 70% in Wisconsin, 66% in Minnesota, and 59% in South Dakota) (SurveyUSA).

Still, despite being outnumbered, the power of the 'pro-life' movement can be felt at the ballot box: in June four republican members of the South Dakota state legislature who voted against the abortion ban were ousted in the primary. The extent to which social conservatives—especially religious conservatives—turn out to vote may not only spell victory or defeat for South Dakota's abortion referendum, but also close district-level races throughout the Upper Midwest.

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