South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem urged lawmakers Tuesday to protect unborn babies from abortion by passing a heartbeat bill in the new legislative session.
In her state of the state address, Noem said she plans to introduce legislation soon to prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy, the Associated Press reports.
“Today, I am asking all of you to protect the heartbeats of these unborn children,” Noem said. “I am bringing legislation to ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected.”
The Republican governor has a strong pro-life record. After the Biden administration got rid of safety regulations for the abortion drug mifepristone late last year, her administration moved swiftly to ban abortion businesses from selling abortion drugs through the mail. And last spring, in a historic moment, the state legislature unanimously passed Noem’s bill to ban discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with Down syndrome.
“In South Dakota, we protect freedom, and we will pass it on to our children, and we will not allow freedom to go extinct,” Noem promised Tuesday in her speech.
Recent actions by the U.S. Supreme Court have pro-life leaders and lawmakers hopeful that states may be allowed to protect unborn babies from abortion again. Twice, the high court refused to block the Texas heartbeat law; it also is considering a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks.
Speaking with South Dakota News Watch, state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, the president pro tempore in the state Senate, said some lawmakers have been hesitant in the past about supporting pro-life legislation because most abortion bans are struck down in court before they ever go into effect and never save any lives.
“In the past, you’ll have legislators that wouldn’t vote for things that are not realistically going to matter; they’ll say, ‘I might agree with you, but you’re not making progress, you’re just making noise,’” Schoenbeck said. “But this session, you’ll have legislators who may say, ‘Look, the court may let us do more,’ so something they might think was a waste of time two years ago, this year they might say, ‘I’ll vote for that today because I think it can make a difference.’”
A December poll from News Watch found a strong majority of South Dakota voters support restrictions on abortion. While 37 percent said they want abortions to be legal in all or most circumstances, 61 percent said they want abortions to only be legal in certain circumstances or not at all, according to the poll.
“It is encouraging to see that a strong majority of South Dakotans support restrictions on ending the lives of unborn children,” Noem told News Watch after seeing the poll.
Dale Bartscher, executive director of South Dakota Right to Life, told News Watch that they are excited for the year ahead. He said they are considering legislation like the Texas heartbeat law and the Mississippi 15-week ban.
“It’s a very exciting time to be part of the pro-life movement in America and especially right here in South Dakota,” Bartscher said. “It’s our goal to make abortion in the state of South Dakota both illegal and unthinkable.”
Last year, Noem said she wants South Dakota to have “the strongest pro life laws on the books.” She even created a new unborn child advocate role in her administration to work on ways to protect unborn babies in the state.
Though new pro-life legislation has not been introduced yet, the Planned Parenthood abortion chain already is threatening to file a lawsuit. Kristin Hayward, manager of advocacy and development at Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, told News Watch that they will sue to block any pro-life laws that they believe are unconstitutional.
“We know that we’re gearing up for a tough session in terms of reproductive health and reproductive rights … This is going to be an extremely stressful next couple months in terms of the work that we’re doing,” she said.
South Dakota has one abortion facility. However, there are no abortionists in the state. Planned Parenthood has to fly in abortionists from other states to abort unborn babies.
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