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Gov. Noem signals intent to bring abortion restriction legislation to South Dakota

Pro-life and pro-choice activists across the country are reacting to the new Texas “Heartbeat Bill,” which effectively bans abortion after 6 weeks. For Republican governors like Kristi Noem, it could be a blueprint for how to pass pro-life legislation that will not be blocked by the courts.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem visits the 2021 South Dakota State Fair in Huron.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem visits the 2021 South Dakota State Fair in Huron.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 10:23 AM CDT
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HURON, S.D. - Texas now has one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, but it may not be long before states like South Dakota catch up.

Governor Kristi Noem tweeted Thursday that she is strongly considering passing an even stricter abortion law than Texas’ in the upcoming state legislative session.

“The Texas heartbeat bill is an extremely important bill,” says South Dakota Right to Life Executive Director Dale Bartscher. “We applaud the Texas Legislature and the Texas Right to Life groups for passing such a strong bill.”

Pro-choice activists across the country Thursday shared that same sense of urgency, after the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to stop the Texas “Heartbeat Bill” from going into effect.

Now, Republican governors like Noem are ready to seize the moment.

”We are looking at the Texas law right now because I think it’s phenomenal what we saw come out of the Supreme Court and we would like to consider that. That’s why I have our pro-life advocate looking at that, considering that, seeing if it is something that we could do during a session here,” says Noem.

South Dakota currently only has one abortion clinic, a Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls. In 2019, 414 abortions were performed in South Dakota, with many South Dakotans going outside of the state to receive an abortion. In 2020, the number of abortions performed in the state dropped off significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The way the state’s laws stand now, abortions are illegal after twenty-two weeks, with certain caveats and exceptions also in place.

”It’s just disappointing, because having an abortion is a private medical decision and one protected under U.S. Constitution. It’s a deeply personal decision, and one that is best left to a woman, her family, and her doctor,” says ACLU of South Dakota Communications Director Jenna Farley.

The ACLU and other pro-choice organizations are intent on fighting for access to abortion.

However, Governor Noem, who as recently as April told Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News she would like to ban abortion completely in the state, is also ready to push forward with a new legal precedent now set.

”This is a huge step because it is a Supreme Court decision, we are going to have to keep working to make sure we are eliminating Roe v. Wade, and that we are protecting every single life That is certainly case law that we can now use, and can continue to build on,” Noem said.

Its unlikely that a bill brought by the Governor’s office would have much, if any, trouble passing a state legislature dominated by Republicans. Last legislative session, the legislature passed five different bills related to restricting access to abortion, many of them spearheaded by Noem’s office.

Noem did not give a timeline as to when she may decide to offer a bill to the South Dakota Legislature on this topic.

The regular legislative session is set to begin on January 11th, 2021.