oe v. Wade is not carved in stone. It's etched in sandstone. So says a lawyer who argued the case almost 40 years ago.

Anti-abortion forces are mounting more challenges to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which has been weakened since it was decided in 1973. To understand what lies ahead, you need to understand an important chapter in recent abortion wars history.

When the South Dakota Legislature voted to ban abortion with the aim of overturning Roe v. Wade, a grassroots campaign sprang up to put the matter to a vote of the people. On both sides, protesters took to the streets. For the first time, voters weighed in directly on the issue.

Much of the debate centered on a new legal and political argument: Abortion hurts women. That premise served as the foundation of the bill passed by the Legislature, and it found its way into a key U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

South Dakota voters defeated the abortion ban, but what happened in the Rushmore state marked an important shift in the way the abortion wars are being fought in America. The watershed election belied many assumptions about where voters stand on this issue even in a state labeled one of the most pro-life in the country. The campaign even altered what it means to be "pro-life" and "pro-choice."

Unplanned Democracy:
America's First Vote on Abortion
, a South Dakota journalist examines the events that led up to this dramatic shift, shows you who made it happen and explains how one small state reshaped the arguments around this hot-button issue.


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Unplanned Democracy: America's First Vote on Abortion

A balanced look at what happened, who made it happen and how the story didn't end when the ballots were counted.

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South Dakota's pro-life billboards are everywhere. Click here to see more.

Read HB1215, the bill that led to the campaign.

About the filmmaker

Check out Denise's blog on South Dakota politics.

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Unplanned Productions

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