SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Abortion is currently illegal in South Dakota, but a proposed ballot measure hopes to put the fate of abortion in the hands of voters in 2024.
In the nearly six weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, triggering an abortion ban in South Dakota, Dakotans for Health has been working on a constitutional amendment that could restore abortion access in the state.
“The amendment itself is nothing more or less than the codification of Roe v. Wade,” co-founder, Rick Weiland told KELOLAND News over the phone on Wednesday.
The proposed amendment would protect access to abortion in the South Dakota Constitution under Article VI. It’s the exact opposite of an amendment that voters in Kansas rejected in a primary election on Tuesday.
The Kansas amendment sought to revoke the constitutional right to abortion as granted by a Supreme Court decision in 2019. Voters rejected the amendment 58-41, allowing for abortions up to 22 weeks.
Like South Dakota, Kansas is an overwhelmingly Republican state. Weiland said he’s encouraged by the Kansas vote and is hopeful that something similar happens in 2024 when the abortion amendment would appear on the ballot if it receives enough signatures.
“I am optimistic that the voters are going to weigh in, and that they will turn out like they did in in Kansas,” Weiland said. “But with a Supreme Court’s decision, you know, the people of South Dakota are gonna have a chance to weigh in, and I think that’s the way it should be.”
If placed on the ballot, it won’t be the first time South Dakota voters will have a chance to determine access to abortion in South Dakota. In 2006, the legislature passed a law outlawing abortions that was signed by then-Governor Mike Rounds.
That November, voters rejected the ban 56-44.
Later, in 2008, another bill passed the legislature to ban abortions in South Dakota. Again, a measure was placed on the ballot and voters rejected the ban once again 55-45.
“So, there’s a history,” Weiland said. “And I would argue that it’s probably when you have a right guaranteed by the highest court of the land taken away, which is what happened to Roe v. Wade. I think there are a lot of people that have just come to expect that they would have some choices. And those choices were taken away.”
South Dakotans have had several initiated measures and amendments to vote on in the last couple of years and will vote on two more this fall: recreational marijuana and expanding Medicaid. Voters recently rejected proposed Amendment C that would have changed the threshold for future initiated measures and amendments to require a 60% majority if the taxes or fees exceed $10 million.
This November, voters will once again head to the ballot box to vote on recreational marijuana, times time as an initiated measure, as well as Amendment D which would expand Medicaid access.
“I think that the voters have demonstrated time and time again, most recently with their rejection of the legislature’s effort to put a minority rule amendment on the primary ballot,” Weiland said. “And Amendment C was rejected by 67%. I think that says a lot about the people of South Dakota and how much they have come to appreciate the opportunity to exercise a more direct approach to public policy.”
Before South Dakotans can vote on whether to protect access to abortion in the constitution, the proposed measure will need to gather enough signatures to place it on the ballot. That number will be determined by the outcome of the November gubernatorial election as 10% of the voter turnout in that race will decide the number of signatures needed.
“We’re confident we’re gonna qualify, and we’re gonna give the people South Dakota, a chance to weigh in, you know, let the people decide. Our state motto is ‘Under God, the people rule.’ Well, let’s let them decide on this one,” Weiland said.
The goal is to begin collecting signatures starting on November 5, 2022 and conclude in November of 2023. But there’s still more to do before they can start on signatures.
“Well, first of all, we have our draft, our proposed constitutional amendment right now pending with the Attorney General’s office for a ballot explanation which the Attorney General is required to provide the voters by law,” Weiland explained.