South Dakotans outraged over the effort by Texas and the theocrat-stacked Supreme Court to outlaw abortion, not to mention Governor Kristi Noem’s promise to follow those American Talibanis in making women second-class citizens will be able to unleash their outrage at the polls 14 months from now. But they can put their activist rage to good use much sooner than that. Thanks to last week’s federal court ruling moving the deadline for initiated-law petitions back from this November 8 to May 3, 2022, activists who would like to change South Dakota’s draconian abortion laws in ways our Legislature never will have the opportunity to write and place on the ballot their own abortion reforms.
Anyone wishing to place a citizen-originated abortion law on the 2022 general election ballot needs to follow this timeline:
- Draft statutory language and submit it to the Legislative Research Council for review. Submit that language before December 1, and the LRC must complete its review within fifteen business days. Dilly-dally until December, and the LRC could sit on your initiative language until fifteen days after the end of the 2022 Session (legislators go home March 28; add 15 workdays to get to April 18), far too late to complete the rest of this timeline and launch a spring petition drive.
- Receive LRC review, revise your initiative language as you feel appropriate, and submit the final draft of your petition to the Attorney General.
- A.G. gets sixty days to review your petition and publish a draft title and explanation.
- Thanks to more Republican Legislative interference, A.G. posts his title and explanation and takes public comment on that language (not on your initiative itself, mind you, just on the A.G.’s title and explanation) for ten days.
- A.G. gets another ten days to review that public comment and file the final version of his statement.
- Generate your final petition, complete with the A.G.’s title and explanation and any fiscal note the LRC may issue, and file the petition with the Secretary of State along with your pre-circulation affidavit and circulator handouts.
- Collect 16,961 signatures (plus at least a good 20% cushion) from registered South Dakota voters.
- Submit those signed petition sheets all at once with your post-circulation sponsor affidavit to the Secretary of State before 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Of course, any petitions now need to be in 14-point font, so they can be big enough for Al Novstrup to read (though he’ll never read them, only lie about them and campaign against them), so you’d better keep it short: just repeal all of Chapter 34-23A, South Dakota’s abortion statutes, so the progressive, pro-woman majority you elect in November 2022 can start from scratch writing laws that protect women’s health and autonomy.
And after all, since abortion is a medical procedure that women should be able to freely choose in consultation with their doctors, it is already sufficiently governed by other statutes related to medical procedures. We could delete all of Chapter 34-23A and abortion would remain as regulated as every other legal medical procedure in South Dakota.
Sharp initiative sponsors could draft solid initiative language and submit it to the LRC by the end of this month. If the Attorney General then drags out his newly inflated 80-day review/delay, sponsors could have initiative petitions ready to circulate by January 1, which would be just in time to carry in conjunction with nominating petitions for women’s advocates who are ready to run for Legislature, Governor, and Congress. (You see the synergy I’m thinking of here?)
The two times that South Dakota voters have had the opportunity to state their feelings about abortion bans directly (in 2006 and 2008), they have said they don’t want the state coming between women and their doctors and reproductive choices. It’s again time that we give South Dakota voters the opportunity to directly express their opinion on women’s reproductive autonomy.