SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Now that the trigger law banning abortion in South Dakota is in effect, lawmakers are awaiting the call to return to Pierre for a special session.
Following the release of the Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), Governor Kristi Noem announced that she would call for a special session but has not yet provided a date. That’ll be decided after legislative leaders meet. For now, anti-abortion lawmakers are preparing for the session and how they’ll work to bolster the ban.
Representative Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) said that the most important thing to address in the special session is that the abortion ban law is clarified.
“And that the concerns put forward by women, especially, are addressed so everybody knows what is permissible and what is not,” Deutsch said.
That includes clarifying the language of the law and how it pertains to miscarriages, Deutsch said.
“That abortion and miscarriage be two entirely separate things, not at all related, has no effect whatsoever,” Deutsch said. “I’m also hearing about ectopic pregnancies and so we need to be crystal clear: No provision whatsoever, no law, if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, this law does not apply.”
Governor Noem’s office told KELOLAND News on Monday that the ban would have no impact on miscarriages.
“In fact, the state’s abortion law has explicitly differentiated between abortion and treatment for miscarriages to ensure that women undergoing a miscarriage continue to get the care they need,” a statement from the Governor’s office read.
Still, Deutsch said he’s received emails from women concerned about the language of the ban as it exists now and wants the miscarriage portion clarified.
“We need to be clear that if a woman’s life is at risk, and maybe putting forward additional language that if a mother’s life is at risk for any reason, that is a valid reason to have an abortion in South Dakota,” Deutsch said.
When asked whether Deutsch would advocate for exemptions for rape or incest, he said it is not something he supports.
“I think that the dignity of an unborn human child is the same regardless of how he or she is conceived,” Deutsch said. “That said, I recognize not everyone agrees with me, so I am open to the conversation.”
That’s a point that Representative Tony Randolph (R-Rapid City) agrees with.
“I think when it comes to this we’ve gotten so far into the weeds,” Randolph said. “When it comes to exceptions, I think having exceptions in this is unnecessary.”
In general, Randolph is hesitant of exceptions for the current ban because he believes that the Hippocratic oath already addresses concerns of life.
“So, the idea that we need to say, ‘except to save the life of the mother,’ the doctor’s job is [also] to save the life of the fetal heart,” Randolph said.
Deutsch added that if a South Dakota woman travels to another state for an abortion, he doesn’t believe the state could stop them.
“I don’t think there’ll even be discussions about trying to stop that from happening,” Deutsch said. “Any person should have the right to travel to another state for any medical procedure.”
Both Randolph and Representative Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) oppose women traveling out of state for an abortion procedure but are unsure of bringing legislation on that topic.
“I don’t know, legally, how we could do that,” Randolph said.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of people that want to and I certainly don’t want to punish pregnant mothers in these situations,” Hansen said. “You know, and I don’t know of any South Dakota law that punishes a mother who has an abortion, and I don’t think we’re going to see any of those measures pass the legislature.”
Both Deutsch and Hansen agreed that the penalty and fine for an illegal abortion should fall on the doctor, not the mother.
“I think we have to clarify that a South Dakota woman, who is pregnant, has an abortion there is no penalty for her. The penalty is for the doctor, for the providing or performing the abortion,” Deutsch said.
Hansen said again that he doesn’t foresee legislation punishing a pregnant woman for having an abortion.
But Randolph wasn’t sure where he stands at this moment and wants to think about it further.
“Decisions made are decisions made, so I think one of the reasons the doctors got so gun shy and were looking for things like exceptions and things of that nature, is because it was all being put on them when in actuality there is someone coming to seek an abortion,” Randolph said.
Hansen also added that he opposes companies like Amazon, Starbucks, Citibank, and Dick’s Sporting Goods covering travel costs for pregnant people seeking abortions in other states.
“Well, in most cases, I think this payment of expenses to go terminate the life of an unborn baby should be illegal in the state of South Dakota,” Hansen said.
Hansen went on to say that the state can assert jurisdiction over companies in South Dakota that are providing financial aid to pregnant people.
“And so, I think for any of these companies that are doing business in the state of South Dakota, they should not be allowed to pay for the expenses to terminate the life of an unborn child,” Hansen said.
As far as legislation and policies dealing with supporting families, Hansen said he’s open to discussions in upcoming legislative sessions.
“I think the state of South Dakota needs to look at a lot of different policies to make sure that South Dakota stays a very pro-life and pro-family state,” Hansen said. “And so, we need to make sure that we protect unborn babies from the hands of abortionists who want to terminate the lives of unborn children. And we also need to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can as a people of the state of South Dakota, to stand with mothers and fathers and support them in times where there’s an unexpected pregnancy.”
Deutsch said that the abortion ban will open the conversation on policies for families.
“I think it’s a very valid conversation and I think it calls for conservatives to reassess their values on the place of government,” Deutsch said. “I’m really careful not to expand government, I want small government… But I think Dobbs makes us rethink what can or should government do to help women in crisis, to help young families.”
Deutsch said that might mean considering child tax credits or expanding maternity leave for state employees.