KELO-TV is asking all Legislative candidates to answer two questions on abortion policy:
- South Dakota’s current abortion law makes the procedure illegal with an exception to “preserve the life of the pregnant female.” Anyone who induces an abortion is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Does this law need clarifying?
- Do any other state laws need to be changed to reflect the new post-Roe era when an individual state such as South Dakota can choose its path regarding abortion?
So far, of 158 Legislative candidates on the ballot, 60 have responded. 31 of those responses have come from Democratic candidates. Given that 48 Legislative candidates are Democrats and 106 Legislative candidates are Republicans, the Democratic response rate to these abortion questions is 63%, while the Republican response rate is 27%.
**Update 2022.09.15 06:06 CDT: Jackson tells me that KELO-TV contacted only those legislators facing opponents on the November ballot. That reduces the count of potential Republican respondents to 64. The challenged-Republican response rate is thus 45%. 42 incoming legislators, 40% of the 2023 contingent, all of them Republicans, thus escape scrutiny in this particular survey on this particularly important issue, and perhaps are relieved that the Alito Court didn’t rule or even tip its hand until after the filing deadline for candidates. End update**
Former legislators Susan Wismer (Democrat running for District 1 Senate) and Lora Hubbel (Republican running for District 13 Senate) have both responded to KELO-TV’s abortion questions. On clarifying South Dakota’s current abortion law, Wismer says simply, “It needs to be repealed.” On other state laws that may need changes to reflect the Alito Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Wismer says, “More than you can count. Why should women in South Dakota have less control of their lives than those in other states?”
While Democrat Wismer advocates less government control over women’s lives, Republican Lora Hubbel says more words with less substance about how we ought to clarify South Dakota’s abortion ban:
Sounds good to me. While taking Biology at USD, we saw a film of a viable 11 week old fetus being experimented on. The narrator was saying, “look at how the response is more pronounced when it is poked in the eye than when we poke it in the back”. I had to look down as I could not handle the barberry of seeing grown men poke and prod a human like boys killing a frog. The baby was obviously in pain and trying to get away from that huge needle. We now know that the younger a patient, the more sensitive they are to pain. I am 100% pro-baby [Lora Hubbel, in Jazzmine Jackson, “Most Legislative Candidates Support Clarifying SD Abortion Law,” KELO-TV, updated 2022.09.14].
Hubbel is briefly clearer on the second question—she rejects changing any other state laws to respond to the Alito decision—but then she falls into deception and threats of divine punishment:
No. Any further weakening of the law will not be the will of the people. I believe a land is blessed or cursed by the way it treats their young and their weak. I also believe God is the author of life and has to receive back those broken and bloodied babies and console their tortured little hearts. He will not tolerate their silent screams much longer before we encounter His judgment [Hubbel, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
By phrasing the first question in terms of “clarifying,” Jackson opens the door to a lack of clarity from many candidates. That lack of clarity comes mostly from Republicans. District 2 Democrat Gary Leighton joins Wismer in clearly saying South Dakota’s abortion ban “needs to be repealed, not clarified,” but his Republican House challenger David Kull dodges the question completely: “I can only speculate on what all will come forward on any clarifications proposed, so we’ll be taking a wait and see approach at this time.” District 11 Democrats Sheryl Johnson, Kim Parke, and Margaret Kuipers all state clearly that we need to roll back the current law and leave abortion decisions in the hands of women and their doctors, but District 11 Republican Brian Mulder pretends ignorance:
I am Pro-Life, and I am not aware of the full scope and language of this law. That being said I would need much more information in order to give an opinion about potential clarification [Brian Mulder, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
District 11 Republican Senator Jim Stalzer plays less dumb but just as non-committal, saying, “We may need to make some changes to the statute that defines an abortion.”
District 15 Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba speaks clearly for respecting the decision-making abilities of women and voters against government overreach:
This law needs to be repealed. Based on the last 50 years of history in the US and on recent polls, South Dakotans would like to have a public vote on putting Roe protections into state law. South Dakotans believe in the individual freedom that the Roe decision provided. Individuals should be allowed to make decisions about their bodily autonomy. State government in Pierre should not be forcing anyone to give birth against their will [Nesiba, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
Senator Nesiba also notes that it’s not just our abortion laws that need changing to respond to the Alito Court’s predations:
While an abortion prohibition remains in place, we ensure that all pregnant women have access to prenatal care. Eventually when the current COVID emergency ends we should make sure that moms are allowed to stay on Medicaid for one year after giving birth. We should also ensure that every eligible child has access to Medicaid and/or the CHIP Program [Nesiba, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
Nesiba’s ticketmate, Democratic District 15 House candidate Kadyn Wittman, goes bigger:
If pregnant South Dakotans are going to be forced to carry their pregnancies to term, regardless of their socioeconomic ability to provide for the child, then the state needs to expand its WIC and SNAP programs, subsidize childcare for working families, eliminate the sales tax on food, and support universal free pre-k education [Wittman, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
And don’t forget to expand Medicaid, says Democratic District 14 House candidate Wendy Mamer:
It’s vital that our state legislature prioritizes the well-being of pregnant women and children as South Dakota begins to navigate the post-Roe era. I would support legislation that makes exceptions for rape and incest and allows health care providers all of the tools needed to protect the life of a pregnant individual. Beyond those measures, the expansion of Medicaid has never been more important than it is post-Roe, as it provides health care access to individuals during and after pregnancy, ensuring the safety and health of women and children [Mamer, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
Republican District 14 Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt says she wants “conversations” about “clarifying exemptions for the life of the mother as well as fatal fetal issues and rape/incest,” but that’s not the same as saying, “I’ll vote for exemptions for fatal fatal issues, rape, and incest.” Her ticketmate, District 14 Republicans Tyler Tordsen, says he won’t introduce any abortion-related bills, but he doesn’t tell us how he’ll vote on abortion bills others bring:
I expect that the Legislature will look at this in 2023 to make sure that the lives of infants and mothers are safeguarded and physicians have clarity to act when needed to save the life of the mother.
I expect a robust debate during the upcoming session, but I have not seen any proposals at this time and I am not introducing any abortion-related bills [Tordsen, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
In District 17, Democratic House candidate Bekki Engquist-Schroeder makes clear her commitment to women’s rights and limited government:
This law needs repealing. It is certainly not an easy choice to terminate a pregnancy. There are so many variables that are involved with pre-natal care that a doctor and patient have knowledge of that we don’t. Blanket decisions like abortion bans, that this state has voted down twice before, are dangerous. It certainly isn’t the governments job to tell women what they can do with their bodies. Clarifying that women may die because of no access to safe abortions, just like history already taught us, may help people take a more nuanced approach to this issue. As currently written, it is unclear how close to death the mother has to be before she can have medical intervention. Why would South Dakota invite the state to determine such a sensitive matter? This is better left to a medical professional who is not at risk of a Class 6 Felony.
The legislature already spends too much time on personal medical decisions and should focus on things South Dakotans are saying they need. South Dakota does not limit residents options to seek medical care for any other health concern in other states. This is no different [Engquist-Schroeder, in Jackson, 2022.09.14]..
…while District 17 Republican House candidate Chris Kassin makes clear his commitment to meaningless fluff:
Constituents consistently ask for clarifications on a law that is over a decade old. They are asking for evolution of thought and medical practice to be considered. I am committed to listening to the public and reserving judgment until I’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly study how policy decisions might positively or negatively impact our state. It is important we take our time to thoughtfully and compassionately analyze the current state of our abortion laws.
Again, careful review and compassionate understanding of all aspects of this issue are what voters are asking from policymakers. This includes an opportunity to further evaluate the services and programs offered in support of women and families [Kassin, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
Good grief. If Kassin, Tordsen, and Mulder had been in Philadelphia in July 1776, our Declaration of Independence would open with, “We may hold some truths to be self-evident, but we are not aware of the full scope and language of the Townshend and Intolerable Acts, so we need to reserve judgment while the Continental Congress and Parliament have a robust discussion with compassionate understanding and thorough study of how Revolutionary decisions might positively or negatively impact these potentially united potential States.”
Clear calls for full repeal of South Dakota’s abortion ban come from 13 Democrats: Wismer, Leighton, Johnson, Parke, Kuipers, Nesiba, Engquist-Schroeder, Cole Sartell (District 7), Rep. Linda Duba (15), Jay Williams (18), Dan Andersson (21), Norma Rendon (27), Bret Swanson (30, who says “This law needs to be aborted”), and Christine Stephenson (32). District 5 Democrat Kahden Mooney doesn’t call for repeal of the abortion ban, but he does promise to “bring forward a bill to create exceptions in the current law for victims of rape and incest.” District 14 Democrat Matthew Tysdal says he would support such exceptions. No Republicans clearly endorse exceptions for rape or incest or other minor expansions of women’s access to abortion. District 1 Republican Senator Michael Rohl says, “I believe a majority of South Dakotans support exceptions for rape,” but he doesn’t see he supports such exceptions.
District 33 Republican Representative Phil Jensen has the temerity to say “Some bills are in the works but I’m not free to elaborate at this time.” Really, Phil? What legitimate circumstances justify keeping secret from voters the bills you and/or your colleagues will propose if you are elected?
Democrats are not immune to dodging this issue. District 25 Democrat Dan Ahlers, who is in a prime position to beat his woman- and democracy-hating opponent Republican Representative Jon Hansen roundly about the pate on the abortion issue, is still campaigning like it’s 1999, or maybe April 2022, and the Alito Court hadn’t lit the electorate the on fire and Lindsey Graham hadn’t poured gasoline thereupon:
Before I make any judgements or decisions on the current law, I would have a conversation with our state’s medical professionals. Their input would be essential to any changes.
Again, I would consult with our health care professionals as well as any other group that may be impacted by a new law. I think we should have public forums across that state to get input from the people of South Dakota. We are elected to represent and serve them. I would like to hear their thoughts, too [Ahlers, in Jackson, 2022.09.14].
Dan, a thousand women march up and down Phillips Avenue demanding their bodily autonomy and equal citizenship, and you still need to talk to doctors to figure out if those women are right? Good grief—go sit on the mumbledypeg bench with Kassin, Tordsen, and Mulder.