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Republicans Rebuff Rehfeldt’s Meager Easing of Abortion Ban

Kevin Woster has long held the notion that if we can’t beat ’em, we should join ’em—or, more specifically, that in the absence of a South Dakota Democratic Party that can field a meaningfully sizable field of candidates, Democrats should register and run as Republicans to infiltrate the South Dakota Republican Party and work for moderation of GOP excesses from within.

Representative Taylor Rehfeldt’s retreat from her proposed teeny-tiny relaxation of South Dakota’s near-total abortion ban demonstrates that Woster’s approach likely won’t help us make gains for women’s rights.

The District 14/Sioux Falls Republican, who also practices nursing and experienced a miscarriage, spoke up last year against banning abortion pills. The specific bill she opposed, 2022 House Bill 1208, failed, not because Rehfeldt brought her fellow Republicans to their senses on women’s need to access safe and effective abortion medication but because it was sponsored by right-wing outsider extraordinaire Representative and gubernatorial primary candidate Steven Haugaard and sought to steal Governor Kristi Noem’s thunder in the war on abortion.

In this first post-Dobbs Session, Rep. Rehfeldt proposed 2023 House Bill 1169, which would have defined the threat to the life of a mother that serves as the only legal excuse for an abortion in South Dakota to include “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of one or more bodily functions.” Rehfeldt is four months pregnant. She has a medical condition that makes her pregnancy risky. She wants very much to give birth to her third child, but, as she explained to House Health and Human Services Tuesday, she also recognizes that if something goes wrong with this pregnancy, doctors in South Dakota may not be able to take action to preserve her life or health:

“I don’t think there is anyone else in this room that can care about the health of women more than myself,” Rehfeldt said.

In a tearful testimony, Rehfeldt told lawmakers she had experienced a miscarriage in the past and that with her first two children, and a current pregnancy, she is considered a high-risk during pregnancy.

“With the current law in place, I will tell you, I wake up fearful of my pregnancy, and what it would mean for my children, my husband and my parents if something happened to me, and the doctor cannot perform life-saving measures,” Rehfeldt said [Jazzmine Jackson, “Bill to Clarify SD Abortion Ban Tabled by Sponsor,” KELO-TV, updated 2023.02.08].

Rep. Rehfeldt says she worked with South Dakota Right to Life to hammer out language that would still suit their anti-abortion stance, but SDRTL ultimately opposed the bill, and without SDRTL on board, there was no way Rehfeldt could get enough of her Republican caucus on board. Thus, yesterday, Rehfeldt asked House HHS to table—i.e., kill—her bill without debate:

“I have absolute confidence that 99% of South Dakotans would agree with the concept of this bill, and in protecting both moms and babies. But here I am today unable to get consensus on a language that has been in place for 30 years,” Rehfeldt said.

…“I would have never thought that the idea of preserving the life of the mother would be debatable, or even considered not pro-life by some who would think that being pro-life could mean that we do not protect women, that we are not willing to provide clarification for doctors who have given their lives to care for not just one, but two patients,” Rehfeldt said [Jackson, 2023.02.08].

I have no reason to think Rehfeldt is a closet Democrat following the Woster strategy of infiltrating the Republican Party. She’s a smart mother and practicing nurse who just wants to add a modicum of medical decency to South Dakota’s abortion law. She’s part of the SDGOP mainstream leadership, so she should have the clout to move difficult legislation. She worked in good faith with SDRTL and its boss Dale Bartscher. I’m sure Bartscher gave Rehfeldt his best, beaming smile and spoke in the same gentle, kindly tone he uses with everyone (even with me!)

And then Bartscher turned and ordered that her bill, offering just a tiny bit of protection for pregnant women and their health, be summarily killed, without one full public hearing, because on this issue, South Dakota’s abortion extremists don’t want any moderation, not from Democrats, not from Republicans, not from nurses or doctors or worried moms and dads. They do not really want to protect women and women’s health. They want their abortion ban and their control of everyone’s uteri—your uterus, Taylor! and Erin’s uterus, and Sydney’s, and everyone else’s (but not anyone’s testicles, isn’t that strange?)—to be absolute.

And if Republican Representative Taylor Rehfeldt can’t advance such a mild exception to South Dakota’s abortion ban to protect women’s lives and health, then I guarantee no Democrat is going to infiltrate the party and work any greater defense of women’s health and proper autonomy. We won’t get rid of this Republican abortion ban and the Republican war on women by electing more Republicans.


  1. Mark Anderson 2023-02-08 20:57

    A Republican can easily say, abortion will be the death of me. This issue is going to wipe them out nationally. Everyone has their opinion and the Republican opinion is so low in any poll you choose to look at they really won’t know what hit them. The dog catching the car is the actual truth.

  2. P. Aitch 2023-02-08 21:21

    Posing as a MAGA or even a second political tier mainstream Republican is just “stupid”. *I used a common MAGA adverb to reiterate the point.
    You’re a United States of America Democrat for heaven’s sake. Be proud. You’re on the best team America has ever fielded.
    After all. A Republican victory in South Dakota means zilch in USA politics. If it sucks to live in a MAGA state then it sucks to have your decision making process. Blame yourself not the MAGA’s.

  3. bearcreekbat 2023-02-09 01:26

    This doesn’t bode well for amending or eliminating the SD statutes that authorize imposition the death penalty for any and all individuals involved in the unauthorized termination of a pregnancy (see e.g., SDCL 22-6-1(1), 22-16-4, and 22-16-12), including a pregnancy that will cause “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of one or more bodily functions” of the pregnant woman. In other words, Republican stand by the proposition that if a doctor terminates a pregnancy that endagers a woman’s bodily functions the State can kill that doctor, the woman, and anyone that might provide aid, abet or advise in procuring the unauthorized abortion.

  4. sx123 2023-02-09 06:20

    Really, if you’re pregnant and it’s determined that you will die or be severely impaired if pregnancy is continued, you have no other option other than to leave the state and not come back.

    Your spouse also has to leave as they may need to drive you to a hospital and will be an accomplice to the crime. And your other kids have to leave because you don’t want to leave them behind and they be put in foster care.

    And you don’t want to get your SD doctor in trouble trying to save your life.

    I can’t believe the law is this strict. Is it really this strict? I can envision a waterfall of events happening because of a pregnancy gone wrong.

    Didn’t pregnancies used to kill up to 50% of mothers to be?

  5. e platypus onion 2023-02-09 08:37

    Pin your hopes for sanity in the abortion question on the 13th amendment to the US constitution. South Duhkota magats are rabid skunks and you know what rapid skunks get.

  6. 96Tears 2023-02-09 10:32

    Representative Taylor Rehfeldt now knows who are her worst enemies: Dale Bartscher, SD Right to Life and the SD Republican Party. Their highest priority is to achieve the most extreme political position to show off to the rest of the nation. They don’t care who dies and about the suffering of families. This is only about their control and political grandstanding. I am sorry for her dire circumstances and wish I could wave a magic wand to restore safety in her life, but I also hope she knows who are her enemies and I hope she realizes how badly betrayed she was by Bartscher, SDRtL and SDGOP.

  7. bearcreekbat 2023-02-09 11:43

    sx123, At first I too couldn’t “believe the law is this strict,” but that is exactly what the plain language of SD criminal law statutes authorize. Try as I might I have not been able to obtain a contrary opinion from anyone in the legal profession that would show that I’ve overlooked a statute negating this draconian threat, or that I have somehow misunderstood or misinterpreted these murder and death penalty statutes. Instead, a long time Pennington County Assistant Public Defender and long time lawyer and Pennington County 2022 legislative candidate have each written objective analysis for the South Dakota Standard confirming this conclusion.

    What is just as, if not more, troubling to me is the apparent fact that no one in public office, or law enforcement, or even lay people, seems to find this death sentence law objectionable. The silence has been absolutely deafening to me. In addition, the news media has not made people aware of these laws and in almost all stories I have read, the criminal penalties are implicitly misrepresented by describing only the Class 6 felony law, with no mention of the Class A felony that authorizes the death sentence. And for the most part the responses of the public to my posts aboput this, and the stories in the Standard and on Cory’s blog have been crickets – the public apparently supports it, could care less one way or the other, or simply finds it too distressing to even acknowledge or object to (the old ostrich hide one’s head in the sand response).

  8. Jake 2023-02-09 12:54

    sx 123; NO, and Yes “the law is That strict; -but by “NO” I mean it is just simply draconian and fascist to say the least. BCB (being of astute legal mindedness) lays out all the ways the law could be enforced by a District Attorney embarking on getting his or her name well-known by prosecuting not just the woman, doctor and family, but anyone enabling an abortion! One could say “Oh, they’d never go THAT far, but who would have thought they would pursue (with the help of top law officers in state) the persecution of the peoples right to use a substance that was widely used by indigenous people long before SD was even a state (marijuana); but would much rather we would use chemically developed medicine of big pharma for the sake of money exploitation.

    Our legislature deems themselves to be right in ALL matters it seems, and listening to their public conversation on PBS (which they also would like to ‘defund’ to wither and die) they appear tb so self-righteous like the Pharisees in the bible.

  9. 96Tears 2023-02-09 13:48

    bearcreekbat – I’ve concluded that the majority of regular folks in South Dakota who are registered to vote don’t read regularly, except for obituaries and entertainment information. They turn off anything that’s partisan that challenges their longstanding conceptions of the way things are. Hearsay and gossip mills are the preferred media. It’s been more and more this way since 2008. I would bet a lot of money that a real scientific poll would reveal more than 80 percent of voters in South Dakota have no idea what is in the current law regarding abortions. The Dobbs v Jackson decision ignited a fire storm that blew hard and faded in a month. I don’t think that’s acquiescence as much as laziness and incuriousness about our world and our state.

    If and when the issue to restore Roe is placed on the ballot and voters get pummeled with direct mail, online and broadcast marketing, awareness will spike again and I think voters will reject a statewide abortion ban for the third time.

  10. ABC 2023-02-09 14:12

    I agree with bearcreekbat. Majority of voters live and breathe on gossip and rumors.

    So we have to build a better system.

    Two ways.

    1. Democracy and elections. More information and more voters over time will crush and retire the 2 bad parties and their rumor gossip legislation. Fake Family Values and Blue Right Wing Democrats are the 90-10 monopoly- monotony machine that is expert a n d promoting mediocrity and low wages and bursting prisons. We will won over time, crush and remove this minority machine that gets elected by gossip fueled voters.

    2. Elections of course is the once every 2 years pseudo orgasm. Besides government, which we will 100% reconstituted and change over time, we will also create an AWESOME and STAGGERINGLY great nonprofit ,for profit and social businesses that will create Great jobs, true diversity, and breathtaking new opportunity and lifestyle for all South Dakota people!

    Once WE change the economy, the older low wage part time jobs and jobsters will fade away to zero. Who would want crap jobs when better jobs and employers exist?

    Change the government. Change the economy. Both can be done! We have to step outside of the current picture and scene, meditate , relax and then, just create better! We the people can create Better (rather than accept the machine ).

  11. Bob Newland 2023-02-09 20:07

    Dale Bartscher is a venal, vile excuse for a human being. Perhaps even worse than grudznutz.

  12. grudznick 2023-02-09 22:04

    My good friend Bob is righter than right in this case, as usual.

    And, Mr. Bartscher sports a smarmy look and often wears a tan sports coat that is unflattering!

  13. Eve Fisher 2023-02-10 10:30

    Mr. Bartscher et al were afraid that the bill would be too lenient – after all, even the idea a woman should have to wait until she’s within 24 hours of death before the doctor should step in and save her life by aborting the fetus is probably too liberal. In the extreme “right to life” world, if a woman can’t bring a baby to term, for whatever reason, then there is no reason to save her, because she can’t fulfill her primary function on earth.

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