Representative Rebecca Reimer (R-26B/Chamberlain) is pretending to codify Governor Kristi Noem’s promise not to prosecute women for seeking abortions. But Reimer’s House Bill 1220 falls short of full immunity and piles onto the general misogyny of South Dakota’s draconian abortion ban.
HB 1220 attempts to provide women legal cover for having abortions with one seemingly straightforward sentence:
A female who is subjected to an unlawful abortion, as set forth in § 22-17-5.1, may not be held criminally liable for the abortion.
The problem is the passive verb, “is subjected to”. HB 1220 protects a women from prosecution only if she successfully aborts her pregnancy. HB 1220 would not prevent the state from filing charges against a woman who orders FDA-approved but South Dakota-banned and Alito-imperiled mifepristone and misoprostol. HB 1220 would not prevent the state from prosecuting women or intercepting them at the border if they try to travel out of state to seek pregnancy-related health care. HB 1220 would not prevent the state from detaining pregnant women who contact doctors or the Justice Empowerment Network seeking help in aborting their pregnancies and imprisoning or involuntarily committing those women until they have delivered their babies.
HB 1220 might not even prevent the prosecution of women who abort their own pregnancies by pill or other means. Note the passive voice: HB 1220 only protects women who are “subjected to” an unlawful abortion (i.e., any abortion performed for any reason other than saving the pregnant woman from imminent death). If a woman is subjected to something, someone else is doing that thing.
Even if a lawyer contends (and Reimer has one lawyer, vile woman-hating Rep. Jon Hansen among her HB 1220 sponsors) that “subjected to” may include self-abortions, the passive voice here lays bare the continuing misogyny of South Dakota’s abortion laws. (Yes, women like Representative Reimer and co-sponsors Rep. Liz May, Sen. Jessica Castleberry, and Sen. Erin Tobin can commit misogyny.) In the view of a broadly interpreted HB 1220, women don’t have abortions. Women don’t choose abortions. Women do not exercise agency in their abortions. Abortions are terrible crimes imposed on them by outside forces, by people preying on women’s emotional and physical weakness, by evildoers from whom the state must protect women, who cannot make decisions for themselves.
HB 1220 might provide legal cover for South Dakota women who manage to evade all the roadblocks the state throws between them and their erstwhile right to terminate unwanted pregnancies. But to avail themselves of that legal cover, HB 1220’s passive voice requires women to further surrender their autonomy—O woe! I was subjected to a big bad abortion by a big bad doctor! Protect me, Big Brother!