SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — With the banning of abortion in South Dakota, candidates on both sides of the aisle are approaching the issue differently in the upcoming election.
For the South Dakota Democratic Party, abortion is taking center stage as candidates advocate for less restrictive abortion laws or the repeal of the 2005 trigger ban now in effect. But how have the South Dakota GOP candidates altered their approach to abortion legislation now that their goal of banning the procedure is the law of the land?
Republican Senator and Chair of the Minnehaha County GOP Maggie Sutton, who is running for re-election in District 10, says approach to the issue hasn’t changed at all because her core beliefs are the same.
“I’ve been pro-life,” Sutton said. “So, I think what has occurred with the turnover of Roe v. Wade, is that the issue has become more heated. Because now there is a debate here in South Dakota, but you know, it’s law now all over the land, and particularly in South Dakota. It’s against the law, except to save a pregnant woman’s life, but the doctors would do that anyway.”
“I think the law as it stands now, is clear and concise. And we don’t need to, at this point, from what I see, we don’t need to change it,” Sutton said.
Sutton’s opposition, Liz Larson, believes that the law needs clarification as the current iteration leaves both doctors and patients “questioning what they legally can and cannot do.” Larson also stated that she believes individuals and families should make their own medical decisions and that the law should reflect that by allowing for them to seek abortions if necessary.
That’s compared to 14 GOP candidates who wished to see clarification on the law in various ways.
The South Dakota Republican party platform for 2022 lists the “Sanctity of Life” as one of its main components, as it’s been for several decades. Sutton isn’t sure yet how Republicans in Pierre will deal with the fall out of Roe with legislation, but she said she expects heavy debates.
For South Dakota Democrats, abortion has moved to the forefront as a rallying issue for the party. Over the weekend, Democrats hosted an abortion rally that they say brought in at around 300 attendees and several Democratic candidates to discuss what comes next for abortion in the state.
Ahead of the rally, executive director Berk Ehrmantraut told KELOLAND News that he expects abortion will be a big issue in Pierre and the Democratic party is readying themselves to advocate for the reproductive health of South Dakotans.
“These choices are between doctors and patients, and not between, you know, Republican legislators and patients,” Ehrmantraut said.
Sutton does expect there to be some discussion in Pierre next January about the extent to which they can legislate on abortion.
“What we are going to see, because of the law that we have in South Dakota is pretty strong, and pretty, pretty clear, what you are going to see is that women who really want to have an abortion, are going to go out of state,” Sutton said.
Sutton thinks it will be difficult for the legislature to legislate against those who choose to seek abortions out of state. Representative Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) expressed a similar opinion earlier this summer when KELOLAND News spoke with him.
“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 told KELOLAND News in June. “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.”
In her time campaigning in the newly drawn District 10, Sutton said abortion hasn’t been on the minds of voters who are more worried about crime in Sioux Falls.
“So, the individuals that I have talked to and who have given me response back, it has been very supportive of my stance on being pro-life. But it’s been very positive for my experience,” Sutton said.