SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Dobbs v. Jackson decision from the Supreme Court of the United States, Governor Kristi Noem’s office announced support for a special session of the South Dakota Legislature on the topic of abortion.
“The exact dates of the Special Session will be decided promptly after discussion with legislative leadership,” the release from June 24 said.
In the 19 days since, some lawmakers on both sides have commented publicly they don’t believe there should be a special session on the topic. Other lawmakers have said they’re eager to add more clarification to South Dakota’s trigger law.
The law currently in effect bans abortion in South Dakota with the lone exception to “preserve the life of pregnant female.” It makes the procedure a Class 6 felony and Noem has stated the punishment for abortions in South Dakota should fall primarily on doctors who perform them, not the people that receive them.
On Wednesday, Tony Mangan with Governor Kristi Noem’s office told KELOLAND News there is no official update on the issue of whether there will be a special session on abortion.
Democratic candidate for governor Jamie Smith, a state representative from Sioux Falls, told KELOLAND News a special session on abortion would be a chance to change the state’s restrictive trigger law despite Republicans outnumbering Democrats 94-11.
“This law allows children to be forced to have children and we are better than that in the state of South Dakota,” Smith said. “That’s not a compassionate law and I believe we need to do something about that.”
Smith said he believes Noem doesn’t want a special session on abortion for political reasons.
“We know that when Kristi Noem gets up in the morning, the first thing she thinks about is herself and how to promote herself,” Smith said. “I think Kristi Noem is looking out for Kristi Noem in this case and I don’t know if she’s looking out for women and girls in our state.”
Noem’s office has released a website called Life.SD.gov, which is meant to provide resources for parents, financial assistance and information on adoption.
Lawmakers share thoughts on possible special session
Lawmakers have been mixed on what they’d like to see happen with the issue in the state.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) told KELOLAND News 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.
Rep. Tony Randolph (R-Rapid City) and Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) each said they oppose women traveling out of state for an abortion procedure but are unsure of bringing legislation on that topic.
Rep. Erin Healy (D-Sioux Falls) said having a special session would be a financial burden to the state, but added she’d fight for the reproductive rights of women.
In the days since the Dobbs decision, South Dakota has seen numerous protests on abortion, including one that drew 1,100 people in downtown Sioux Falls. Smith brought up the abortion ballot questions in 2006 and 2008 when South Dakota voters voted against banning all abortion procedures.
In 2008, the vote included exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to protect the life of the pregnant woman.
Smith said he believes a statewide vote on the issue would be similar to those votes more than 14 years ago.
“I haven’t changed who I am on this. It’s a very difficult issue. It’s not an easy one,” Smith said. “The will of the voter in South Dakota matters a great deal to me and they said twice that there should be access in the state of South Dakota to this medical procedure.”