Remember how Billie Sutton lost the 2018 governor’s race to Kristi Noem by just 3.4 percentage points? How might Jamie Smith get 11,459 voters who sat out the 2018 contest to come to the polls for him this year and boot Kristi Noem from office?
Maybe by pointing out to all the angry women in South Dakota who’ve just had their right to control their pregnancies joyfully stripped away by the Trump Court and South Dakota’s trigger law that, unlike Sutton, Smith has consistently stood against anti-choice laws in the South Dakota Legislature.
In 2018, I noted that in his eight years in the Senate, Billie Sutton’s voting record on protecting women from governmental violations of their reproductive rights was atrocious. I found that, on twelve notable bills, Sutton voted to invade women’s privacy and make women’s decision for them ten times.
Smith has served three terms in the House since 2017, with his rookie term overlapping with Sutton’s final Senate term. On three notable abortion restrictions considered while they both served in Pierre, Sutton voted nay just once; Smith opposed all three. One of the measures on which Sutton supported by Smith opposed was 2018 Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, Senate Stace Nelson’s emphatic declaration that Roe v. Wade was an assault on the God-given right to life and implicit call to overturn that decision.
So head to head, Smith is three times better on reproductive rights than Sutton.
Looking at Smith’s full six years in the House, I find 23 bills LRC-tagged as relating to abortion. I consider 16 of them notable—i.e., offering a clear picture of candidates’ willingness to stand up for women’s reproductive rights—and print them in bold font.
|Bill||Title||Pro-Choice Vote||Smith Vote||Notes|
|2017 HB 1101||increase the penalty for performing an abortion of an unborn child capable of feeling pain.||nay||nay||increases penalty from C1 misdemeanor to C6 felony under 2016 SB 72 fetal pain bill|
|2017 SB 102||require that the name and telephone number of an organization fighting to end sex trafficking be given, in writing, to any woman seeking an abortion.||nay||aye||lengthens paperwork; passed 33-0 in Senate, 66-1 House, Tieszen only nay|
|2018 SB 110||increase the penalty for performing an abortion of an unborn child capable of feeling pain.||nay||nay||accuses Planned Parenthood of breaking the law by telling patients that “politicians” require them to recite mandatory anti-abortion propaganda|
|2018 SCR 3||Committing the Legislature and urging the Governor, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General to secure the blessings of life and liberty for South Dakota’s posterity.||nay||nay||calls Roe v. Wade an “assault” on the right to life of every “pre-born” child and says that right begins at conception|
|2019 HB 1177||provide an opportunity to view a sonogram and hear the child’s heartbeat prior to an abortion.||nay||nay||passed; more delay, emotional interference, not medically indicated|
|2019 HB 1190||provide for certain reporting requirements related to abortions.||nay||nay||passed; bureaucratic interference|
|2019 HB 1193||provide a criminal penalty for causing an abortion against a pregnant mother’s will.||aye||aye||passed unanimously both chambers|
|2019 SB 6||revise certain provisions regarding sonogram and heart auscultation prior to an abortion.||nay||mandated sonogram and heart sound; radical Nelson bill, failed Senate HHS 2-5|
|2019 SB 72||provide for a form a physician must use to obtain consent to an abortion.||nay||nay||Noem bill; more bureaucracy; more opportunity for DOH interference in medical procedure and patient privacy|
|2019 SB 85||revise the deadline for the Department of Health’s annual report regarding abortions.||aye||minor: changed reporting deadline from Nov 15 to July 1 for calendar year data|
|2020 HB 1225||restrict the use of funds for abortion.||nay||nay||restrict grants to any entity that performs or counsels in favor of abortions or any affiliate thereof; tabled in House committee; Smith voted to table/kill|
|2020 HCR 6020||Denouncing the National Education Association’s recent policy to support “the fundamental right to abortion.”||nay||nay||right-wing posturing|
|2020 SB 87||add information required to be provided to a woman receiving an abortion.||nay||withdrawn before cmte; added request to view aborted fetus to informed consent sign-off|
|2021 HB 1051||maintain the life of any child born alive.||nay||exc||legislative interference, discourages performance of abortions, increases legal risk and uncertainty|
|2021 HB 1110||prohibit the performance of abortions due to Down syndrome and to provide a penalty therefor.||nay||aye||Noem’s clever posing with Down syndrome kids; passed unanimously both chambers|
|2021 HB 1114||provide a definition of abortion.||nay||nay||Hansen bill; defines fetus as “human being in uterus”|
|2021 HB 1130||establish requirements for the presentation of a written statement regarding the discontinuance of a drug-induced abortion.||nay||nay||inserts more govt interference in medical practice|
|2021 HB 1161||update certain provisions regarding pregnancy help center consultations.||nay||withdrawn before cmte;|
|2021 SB 183||declare certain contract provisions regarding abortion as unenforceable and to provide a penalty therefor.||nay||nay||Schoenbeck/Hansen lawyer tricks: allows AG to investigate any suspected abortion-related activity; hard vote!|
|2022 HB 1113||prohibit threats made with the intent to coerce an abortion and to provide a penalty therefor.||aye||aye||right-wing posing; passed unanimously|
|2022 HB 1208||prohibit chemical abortion drugs and to provide a penalty therefor.||nay||nay||Haugaard bill to ban abortion pills; killed in Senate HHS|
|2022 HB 1318||prohibit medical abortion by telemedicine and to increase the penalty for the unlicensed practice of medicine when performing a medical abortion.||nay||nay||Noem bill; forces delays in use of mifepristone, travel for both doses|
|2022 HB 1326||reinstate the prohibition against certain acts causing the termination of an unborn human life, and to prescribe a penalty therefor.||nay||nay||Haugaard bill: replaced trigger law w immediate ban, Class 5 felony unless to prevent death of woman; Smith voted to table/kill in House State Affairs|
On those 16 notable bills, Smith missed one vote, on 2021 House Bill 1051, a posturing and redundant “born alive” bill. Smith succumbed to optics and voted aye just like everyone else in Pierre on 2021 HB 1110, Noem’s bulletproof photo opp ban on aborting fetuses with Down syndrome. On the remaining 14, Smith voted pro-choice, either casting a straight nay or voting to table (i.e., set aside without action, thus killing) bad bills.
On 15 actual votes, Smith got it right 14 times. Where Sutton rated 17% on my pro-choice counter, Smith rates 93%.
Smith will likely have the chance to boost his score before the election, as Kristi Noem and Legislative leaders plan to call a Special Session to enact even more restrictions on women’s reproductive rights. But I would suggest that a 93% pro-choice rating already offers women’s rights who might have shrugged at Billie Sutton’s candidacy in 2018 to fire up and turn out for Jamie Smith this November.
Related Recollections: When South Dakota Right to Life endorsed Kristi Noem over Billie Sutton, the Sutton campaign sounded miffed:
The Sutton campaign has had little to say publicly about the organization’s endorsement of Noem. When I contacted them for comment, Campaign Manager Suzanne Jones Pranger set this by email:
“Senator Sutton is pro-life. His voting record demonstrates that. And any claim otherwise is untrue.”
…There was clearly suspicion in the Sutton campaign over the new endorsement policy and the 2018 candidate survey by South Dakota Right to Life. That showed in a comment shared by Deutsch that came from MacKenzie Huber of the Sutton Campaign:
The comment said in part: “Because Right to Life has never before endorsed a gubernatorial candidate and we have word that Congresswoman Noem has already been invited to speak at your convention in September before the endorsement process has even been made, the campaign has decided not to fill out the survey. Sen. Sutton’s strong pro-life voting record is clear and evidenced by the multiple A ratings your organization has given Sen. Sutton over the years” [Kevin Woster, “Opposing Abortion: Sutton’s Style Gentle, Noem’s Anything But,” SDPB: On the Other Hand, 2018.09.10].
In response to yesterday’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Jamie Smith offered no triangulation toward SDRTL. He stands firmly for keeping government out of women’s reproductive decisions: