Governor orders review of S.D. abortion laws

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem has told her office’s “unborn-child advocate” Mark Miller to review South Dakota’s abortion laws.

It’s in response to the new Texas law that outlaws most abortions thereafter about six weeks.

Noem used Twitter for the announcement Thursday. She referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to not take action to stop enforcement of the Texas law.

The tweet said: “Following the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the pro-life TX law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new TX law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro life laws on the books in SD.”

KELOLAND News asked whether the move indicates she is open to South Dakota following the example of Texas. Replied her communications director Ian Fury, “(T)he tweet speaks for itself.”

South Dakota voters in 2006 and 2008 rejected ballot measures that would have prohibited most abortions. That recent history might not deter the governor.

She is challenging the decision by South Dakota voters last November to legalize marijuana for people age 21 and older. Amendment A drew 54% support. The state Supreme Court is considering the case.

The Republican governor has publicly opposed abortion rights. She personally championed legislation this year that prohibits abortions due to Down syndrome. No legislator voted against it.

Her daughter Kassidy Peters is director of youth outreach for South Dakota Right to Life. The anti-abortion organization annually holds rallies in the state Capitol rotunda marking the January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

South Dakota has dozens of state laws that regulate, restrict or prohibit abortions. Most are in chapter 34-23A.

South Dakota generally allows abortions by a physician during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Following the twelfth week through 22 weeks of pregnancy, South Dakota requires that abortions must be performed by physicians only in licensed hospitals or other specific locations.

Abortions after the 22nd week may be performed only for a medical emergency, which state law defines as “any condition which, on the basis of the physician’s good faith clinical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

The South Dakota Department of Health reported 125 abortions occurred in South Dakota during calendar 2020, which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic; for the six months from April through September, a total of three abortions were performed. By comparison, there were annual totals of 414 in 2019 and 382 in 2018.

U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted earlier Thursday: “I am launching a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision — looking specifically to HHS and DOJ to see what steps the federal government can take to insulate those in Texas from this law and ensure access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.” Noem has criticized the Democrat president repeatedly since he defeated Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Noem campaigned for Trump.

The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t use the Texas law to overturn Roe.

Wrote Associate Justice Samuel Alito for the majority, “In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”

Responded Chief Justice John Roberts in a dissent, “Although the Court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today, the Court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue. But although the Court does not address the constitutionality of this law, it can of course promptly do so when that question is properly presented. At such time the question could be decided after full briefing and oral argument, with consideration of
whether interim relief is appropriate should enforcement of the law be allowed below.”

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