Sunday, September 17, 2006

Welcome to South Dakota!!

A threatened tourism boycott of South Dakota over new state law that bans nearly all abortions has had little effect on travel, officials said. "I think what we're seeing is that despite the worry people had about the boycott, we haven't seen that it's had an impact on travel in South Dakota," said the state's tourism director, Billie Jo Waara. Tourism is the state's second largest industry, behind agriculture, as millions flock each year to see Mount Rushmore and the Badlands. It brought in an estimated $809 million last year. Waara said revenues from the two main taxes used to measure travel activity were both substantially higher for June and July than they were last year. Revenues from a special tax on tourism attractions were up 8.5 percent in June and 7.3 percent in July, and revenues from a tax on Deadwood casinos were up 7.4 percent in June and 2.1 in July. But Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Women's Medical Fund Inc., a Wisconsin abortion rights group that called for the boycott, said she distrusts the claims. "I have no hard statistics for you on our boycott, but I know people are boycotting South Dakota," Gaylor said. "They may be putting on a rosy front, but there has to have been damage." Gaylor's group called the boycott to protest a law passed in March that would ban all abortions except to save a woman's life, with no exceptions for rape and incest. The Legislature passed it to prompt a court challenge aimed at giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to overturn its 1973 Roe. v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. The state government was flooded with an estimated 10,000 calls, e-mails and letters protesting the bill in a two-week period after it was first signed, but that number has dwindled to one every two or three days now, Waara said.


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