Shoot first, aim later….
After leaping to the mic on May 2 to say she would “immediately call for a Special Session to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota,” Governor Kristi Noem has decided that there are no lives to save, or that they aren’t worth saving, or that her Democratic challenger Jamie Smith is right on the money and she can’t take the political risk of hosting a Special Session that would turn Pierre into a roiling bed of protest with 5,000 women outside the Capitol telling her to get her damn dirty paws off their uteri.
No-follow-through Noem yesterday aborted her premature and ill-conceived call for a Special Session to tighten South Dakota’s abortion laws. But she has to cloak her backstep from her misstep in yet more meaningless superlativery:
Today, Governor Kristi Noem, legislators, and pro-life advocates issued a joint statement on South Dakota’s policies to save lives and help mothers:
“In the last few weeks, it has become clear that South Dakota is the most pro-life state in the nation. Our laws are saving lives, and resources like Life.SD.gov are helping mothers. For these reasons, we are of one mind that South Dakota can prepare to advance on our progress in the regular legislative session, and a special session will not be necessary.”
The statement was co-signed by Governor Kristi Noem; Senators Lee Schoenbeck, Jessica Castleberry, and Erin Tobin; Representatives Jon Hansen, Taylor Rehfeldt, and Rebecca Reimer; Dale Bartscher, Executive Director for South Dakota Right to Life; and Lisa Gennaro, Legislative Liaison for Concerned Women for America of South Dakota [Office of the Governor, press release, 2022.07.15].
“The most pro-life state in the nation”? What does that mean? How does one quantify that? The Guardian reports that 12 states ban abortion right now. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, and Wisconsin ban abortion from conception and make no exception for rape or incest, like South Dakota. So objectively speaking, South Dakota law is no more anti-abortion than the laws of those six states.
To support its abortion ban, Texas is offering those bounties to good patriotic Gileadians who catch abortioners. By putting its money where its mouth is and essentially deputizing everyone in the state to root out this nefarious crime, Texas is arguably showing it is more anti-abortion than South Dakota.
But when Kristi gets caught with her chaps down, she can’t just say, “Oops, my bad.” She has to come blustering out with some louder, wilder claim that she can’t prove but which sounds just peachy dripping from her honeyed lips. (By the way, click those links. Those three examples of Kristi Noem making things up to cover her keester come from just the past week. The torrent of malarkey flowing from her mouth is reaching Trumpist volume.)
Noem’s May 2 call for an immediate post-Alito Special Session was another stunning example of Noem’s inability to pay attention to her own state’s laws. The Alito ruling in Dobbs triggered South Dakota’s 2005 abortion ban and thus mooted pretty much every existing and pending abortion restriction in South Dakota, including every anti-abortion bill that Noem ever signed. The only ways for the Legislature to tighten South Dakota’s laws would be to ban abortions meant to save the life of the mother, increase the criminal penalties, and place restrictions on speech, interstate travel, and interstate commerce that would never withstand judicial scrutiny or Alito’s states’ rights philosophy.
Besides, the radical fringe of her party has been agitating for a Special Session, and after those nuts made such a fuss at convention, Noem and other SDGOP leaders can’t let those whackadoodles steal Noem’s thunder with their really radical proposals. A Special Session would also cut into Noem’s national book tour and (vice?)-presidential campaign travel, and she can’t have that.
Kristi Noem isn’t breaking her promise to hold a Special Session because she’s realized South Dakota is already “the most pro-life state in the nation.” That’s like saying we don’t need a Special Session because we have the yellowest sunshine in the nation.
Noem is breaking her promise because a Special Session wouldn’t result in any meaningful, palatable, or viable new abortion restrictions. It would only spotlight Noem’s opponents—more radical right-wingers inside the Capitol; thousands of torqued-off women outside—and Noem’s inability to craft coherent policy.