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Smart Politics Live Blog At Abortion Policy Event

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7:00 p.m. Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota is the featured speaker at tonight's event. The launching pad for tonight's discussion of abortion policy is South Dakota's 2006 restrictions on abortion, passed by the GOP-dominated state legislature and supported by Republican Governor Mike Rounds. The referendum was defeated last November at the ballot box, 56 to 44 percent, largely because the law did not allow for exceptions for health of the mother, incest, and rape.

7:10 p.m. Stoesz's speech will use the abortion policy debate in South Dakota as a means to more broadly discuss the increased polarization in the political arena. Stoesz characterizes the majority of South Dakotan's as against abortion, although SurveyUSA poll's conducted in 2006 contradict her view: those identifying themselves as pro-choice outnumbered those identifying themselves as pro-life in 9 of 11 polls, with ties in the two other polls.

7:20 p.m. Planned Parenthood is the sole provider of abortions in the state of South Dakota, and, according to Stoesz, the organization has to fly doctors into the state to perform the procedures. Stoesz argues that the proponents of the abortion ban did not foresee the 'shockwaves' this ban would send throughout the state and the country. South Dakota was the first state (1898) to adopt the initiative/referendum process. Planned Parenthood opted to pursue the referendum process rather than the courts to fight their battle.

7:30 p.m. Stoesz states that the ethic underpinning their campaign was 'healthy families,' and not converting people to their view, but, instead, having a 'conversation' about the subject of abortion. Stoesz says the campaign was based on the premise that the ban went too far - and it did, to be sure, for the South Dakota electorate. Had the ban provided for exceptions for rape and incest, support for the law would have been much stronger. A July 2006 KELO-TV/Argus Leader poll found more than 2:1 of South Dakotans supporting such a ban (59 percent to 29 percent).

7:40 p.m. Stoesz does not speak as to whether or not they would have launched a campaign against the ban if it had provided for these exceptions, and, if so, what Planned Parenthood's strategy would have been. Despite the lack of physicians and clinics in the state performing abortion procedures on women, 55 percent of South Dakotans state they know a woman who has had an abortion, according to a February 2006 Rasmussen Poll. That's a higher number than in Iowa (51 percent) and nearly as many as in Wisconsin (58 percent).

7:45 p.m. The event now turns to a panel discussion with Stoesz, former Minnesota House Speaker (and current Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry) Steve Sviggum, and Star Tribune Capitol journalist Lori Sturdevant. Sviggum announces he is a pro-life individual, but characterizes the actions of the South Dakota legislature as "extreme." Sviggum states that Planned Parenthood's strategy to label the ban "family unfriendly" was a "wonderful politcal strategy."

8:00 p.m. Stoesz states she is concerned about recent reproductive rights rulings in the federal court system and the current Supreme Court make-up that if abortion issues are brought before the courts they may not rule in her favor (e.g. the recent 5-4 ban on partial birth abortion was upheld by the Supreme Court).

8:10 p.m. Stoesz cites a World Health Organization study that abortion rates are the same regardless of whether or not abortion is legal. She implies that if Roe vs. Wade had been decided in favor of the minority Court opinion (leaving the right to an abortion up to the states), there would still be as many abortions as there are currently today.

8:20 p.m. Several times during Stoesz's speech she equated, not persuasively from a logical point of view, people being conflicted about abortion with the people therefore not wanting states to take action and outlaw abortion.

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