PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump took a one-day break Sunday, and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds flew from the nation’s Capitol back to South Dakota so he could keep an appointment. He was featured speaker at the annual hour of reflection held by South Dakota Right to Life in the state Capitol rotunda.
The event marked the forty-seventh anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Roe v. Wade case, that in January 1973 legalized most abortions in the United States. Right to Life is one of the anti-abortion groups that continues to push for its reversal.
Rounds told the gathering of several hundred to keep in mind the progress that’s been made.
“You know, we talk a lot about what we have not accomplished. But sometimes, we don’t recognize, because of prayer and faith in our works, what we have been able to accomplish,” he said.
Abortions reported to the South Dakota Department of Health have fallen in the past decade, from a total of 848 in 2008, to 382 in 2018. Abortions performed on teens younger than 18 dropped farther during the same period, from 56 to 10.
The South Dakota Legislature has steadily added more restrictions and requirements during the past 30 years, including a 2019 law that physicians must offer in most instances the opportunity for a pregnant woman seeking an abortion to first hear the unborn child’s heartbeat.
“And as we continue to change minds, and as we continue to promote and to bring more people into the understanding of how important every single human life is, we win those battles in Congress, we win those battles in state legislatures, we win those battles in hearts and minds,” Rounds said.
The South Dakota Legislature passed an abortion ban in 2006 that Rounds as governor signed into law. But abortion-rights supporters referred it to a statewide vote, and a majority overturned it that November, with 149,649 agreeing it should be law while a majority of 185,945 said it shouldn’t.
Two years later, a similar statewide ban known as Initiated Measure 11 was offered directly for voters to consider. Voters again rejected it, with 167,560 saying it should be state law, and 206,535 voting no to keep it off the books.
Most members of the Legislature continue to oppose abortion rights, as does Rounds, a Catholic and a Republican who faces re-election this year. He recently wrote about the sanctity of human life and his family’s connection to not having an abortion in his latest weekly column.
“Today we want to remember that we need to help every single expectant mother and father to be able to make the right decision, to make it as easy as possible for them to choose life,” Rounds said.
He added, “That even in the times in which we are discouraged because it’s not happening all the way, the things that we do that save one life at a time truly make a difference.”
Before the 2 p.m. gathering, about 150 abortion opponents marched to the front steps of the Capitol. As photographers clicked, they engaged in chants, at one point part of the group shouting “Pro-‘” and others responding “-life!”
Inside the rotunda legislators dotted the crowd, with sightings of Nancy Rasmussen of Hurley, David Johnson of Rapid City, Dayle Hammock of Spearfish, Arthur Rusch of Vermillion, Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, Fred Deutsch of Florence, Jeff Monroe of Pierre, and Steven Haugaard, Manny Steele, Jim Stalzer and Margaret Sutton of Sioux Falls.
From Governor Kristi Noem’s administration came Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, her office’s chief lawyer Tom Hart and commissioner of administration Scott Bollinger. Seen with Senator Rounds were his wife, Jean, top aide Rob Skjonsberg, and campaign staffer Jason Glodt.
Governor Noem didn’t attend, but speaking for her was oldest daughter Kassidy Peters. She is youth coordinator for South Dakota Right to Life. Peters read her mother’s official proclamation that January is “Sanctity of Human Life Month.”
Emcee was South Dakota Right to Life executive director Dale Bartscher of Rapid City. He had been on the campaign staff for then-state Attorney General Marty Jackley during the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary. Jackley lost the nomination to Noem, who at the time was South Dakota’s one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Several other Right to Life state board members were also on hand Sunday, including president Deutsch.
“Pro-life is very near and dear to my heart and one that I take very seriously and very passionate about,” Peters told the audience. She added, “Many of you know this last Wednesday marked the forty-seventh anniversary since the (U.S.) Supreme Court ruled that abortions would be legal in our United States. Every year this date rolls around and every year we mourn, because this date marks the day where it became legal for unborn babies to be killed, their voices silenced and their opportunities shut down.”
“Killing unborn children is not acceptable in South Dakota,” she said.