Monday, March 20, 2006

I wouldn't have gone there anyway....

Tourism boycott of South Dakota urged
Proposed abortion law sparks furor
State flooded with calls — pro and con
Mar. 20, 2006. 01:00 AM

PIERRE, S.D.—The superintendent of Mount Rushmore was surprised at first when people from all over the country started calling to express their opinion about South Dakota's ban on nearly all abortions.
Some callers said they were so upset they would never visit Mount Rushmore, South Dakota's No. 1 tourist attraction. Others said they were so thrilled they would make a point of coming to see the chiselled faces of four U.S. presidents in the Black Hills.
Superintendent Gerard Baker decided the messages from far and wide made sense because Mount Rushmore is a symbol of freedom. "That's what we're all about here. That's what America is all about, people expressing their freedom and people expressing their choices and so forth.''
In the uproar, politicians and state agencies have been bombarded with thousands upon thousands of calls, letters and emails — pro and con — from across the country and around the world for two weeks solid.
A few small groups have called for a tourism boycott of South Dakota, urging people to avoid Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, and the Corn Palace arena in Mitchell whose walls are covered with ears of corn.
The furor was prompted by passage of the strictest U.S. abortion law: a ban on all abortions except to save a woman's life, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It takes effect July 1, and is a lower court challenge to the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling (1973) that established the right to an abortion.
Planned Parenthood, which runs South Dakota's only abortion clinic, has said it will decide soon whether to challenge the law in court or to press for a state referendum in November.
"This is one of the most contentious issues in American society, so when a state does something dramatic, ... it will elicit a pretty strong response from the folks who have an interest in the issue," said Don Dahlin, a political science professor at the University of South Dakota,
In a state where many people do not bother to lock their cars or homes, security was tightened at the state Capitol as the legislature debated the abortion measure. State troopers were more visible than usual, plainclothes officers sat in during a committee hearing and some of the bill's main sponsors got protection.
"To the best of my knowledge, we've had no threats," said Republican Governor Mike Rounds, who signed the law March 6.
The governor's office has set up a call centre with five lines just to take abortion law calls. An estimated 10,000 calls, emails and letters arrived in a two-week period. "I don't know of any other single event that has generated more interest than this," said press secretary Mark Johnston.
Tourism is South Dakota's second-largest industry behind agriculture. Visitors to the state spent $809 million (U.S.) in 2005, the tourism department says, and 2.75 million visitors visited Rushmore in 2005.
Those urging a boycott include the Women's Medical Fund, a pro-choice group, based in Madison, Wis. "Our message is that, if they are going to treat women in this inhumane way, they can expect to pay a price," said its director Anne Gaylor.
Dahlin said a tourism boycott would probably be of small effect because the state relies on family tourism, not large-scale convention business, which can be shifted elsewhere all at once.

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