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HB 1220 Doesn’t Really Protect Women from Abortion-Related Charges

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!


  1. sx123 2023-02-06 06:17

    Probably safest to sneak out of SD and stay out of SD.

    Can the guy get prosecuted for getting the girl pregnant in the first place?

  2. Mark Anderson 2023-02-06 06:54

    Blue states are free states. It’s your choice.

  3. Jake 2023-02-06 09:58

    sx123-when THAT happens, you will really see the “sh– hit the fan” for sure! Can’t have THAT in such a “freedom state” now, can we?!

  4. algebra 2023-02-06 12:39

    I think this is too much like the conspiracy theories promoted by the people who claim vaccines contain government tracking devices and children are having transgender surgery without parental consent etc.
    Really? You think the state will set up border patrols to prevent pregnant women from leaving?
    This was the kind of nonsense Tiffany Campbell spouts, the assertion that if South Dakota banned abortions she would not have been allowed to travel to Ohio for a surgical procedure which wasn’t available in South Dakota.
    How about everybody calms down and deals with reality?
    Women of child-bearing age are not going to be implanted with pregnancy detectors which send a signal to a government agency which then tracks their movements.
    If you believe that’s what is going to happen, you are just as insane as half the Republicans in the state.
    Go back to plucking morgellans out of your skin, ok?

  5. algebra 2023-02-06 12:42

    sx123, the answer to your question is “yes.”
    It’s called child support

  6. All Mammal 2023-02-06 13:19

    Hey algebra- Please show me a country that started out merely taking rights away from a specific category of people (by race, gender, religion, etc.) which has let it be after that one law focused on that one group?? I cannot come up with one. It seems it always leads to Iran, lynchings, holocaust, bondage, genocide. I beg you to give me an example of just that one teeny tiny targeted rule that does not apply to all that maintained a peaceful, happy society.
    Women aren’t equal and inequality is subjugation. But I may not have noticed what you have that comforts you.

  7. bearcreekbat 2023-02-06 16:01

    Cory’s “subjected to” analysis makes a lot of sense, as suggests that the pregnant woman is still in danger of criminal prosecution and possible execution, although this language may be just ambiguous enough to a least provide a legal argument that a woman terminating her own pregnancy cannot be charged under SDCL 22-16-4 with “murder in the first degree” even if she “perpetrated [the abortion] without authority of law and with a premeditated design to effect the death of . . . an unborn child.” See SDCL 22-16-4(1). As for any friends or family, or medical providers that choose to help her (i.e. aid, advise or abet, or conspire with), they still seem to lack a similar defense to a lethal injection or mandatory life in prison. (See SDCL 22-3-3 and 3.1) Sorry, mom, dad, brother, sister, cousin, friend, doctor, nurse, et al.

    Let’s hope algebra is right and that these laws, especially the SD capital murder law cover killing a fertilized egg on up, were only adopted as part of SD’s criminal laws just to scare people but such a horrible draconian law would never be enforced. I am not sure, however, how believing that a law that has just gone into effect might endanger someone’s life or freedom falls in the same category as a “conspiracy theory?” I do note that someone that is part of a “conspiracy” to violate a law, such as SD’s anti-abortion laws, normally would also be treated as an adder, abettor, advisor, or principal.

  8. Mark Anderson 2023-02-06 17:38

    All Mammal, Serbia and Turkey come to mind. Orban in Hungary has slowly expanded beyond the one person of George Soros who seems to be the starting point for all right wing wackos. American wackos love him. Hungary is fitting your definition. Serbia with Kosovo and Turkey with the Kurds seem to just want to annihilate one group. The Turks do think alot of themselves especially in Germany. Erdogan seems to think the pubs will help him to get his fighter jets but who knows.

  9. All Mammal 2023-02-07 10:12

    Mr. Anderson- the Ottoman Turks didn’t stop with only slaughtering the Armenians. They most likely started with denying women’s right to read. It always starts with dogging women. I learned from my Ottoman blood. I’m also descendent of Otto from Oslo. Also part otter. Anyway, 5,000 deceased so far from the earthquake. So sad. Can’t we name killer earthquakes to appease the Goddess, or something.

  10. P. Aitch 2023-02-08 09:44

    Grow Up South Dakota – “What remains after fifty years of your best and brightest emigrating?” A depleted gene pool of stubborn ignorance.
    – Boston plans to launch pilot program offering free menstrual products in city buildings.
    – Boston City Councilors want the city to add emergency contraception to its list of offerings in an upcoming free menstrual product pilot. – BostonGlobe

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