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Tobin Fails to Make Argument for Expanding Exceptions to South Dakota’s Abortion Ban

Senator Erin Tobin (R-21/Winner) is unhappy that the anti-abortion absolutists of her Republican Party, the people on whom she relies for her political career, killed House Bill 1169, the bill she worked on with Representative Taylor Rehfeldt (R-14/Sioux Falls) to include “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of one or more bodily functions” along with imminent death as an excuse South Dakota would allow women to use for aborting pregnancies (if they can find doctors willing to stake their careers on such diagnoses in a state committed to throwing medical professionals in prison and stripping their licenses for doing their jobs).

But Senator Tobin’s unhappiness isn’t going to make any progress in bringing back such meager accommodations of women’s bodily autonomy if she can’t a better case for HB 1169 than the essay she posts to her party’s spin blog.

Senator Tobin says nothing about the specifics of HB 1169. She continues to wallow in the euphemism that HB 1169 is intended to “clarify” South Dakota’s near-total abortion ban. The current law, triggered immediately by the Dobbs decision last June, allows abortion only “to preserve the life of the pregnant female”—i.e., to prevent the pregnant woman from dying. Tobin and Rehfeldt are expanding the exception to embrace preserving the life and the health of the pregnant woman. That’s not a clarification; that’s an expansion. That’s allowing more women in dire medical situations to have abortions who cannot have abortions right now. That’s why South Dakota Right to Life opposed the bill: it means (in theory, at least, although I still wonder if in practice any doctor will feel legally safe performing any abortion in South Dakota unless we pass the ballot measure to codify Roe v. Wade in 2024) that more abortions will happen, and the anti-abortion absolutists will not stand for anything other than progress toward zero abortions.

In her essay, Tobin never mentions protecting the health of the mother. She only speaks of protecting the life of the mother, which any reasonable observer (not to mention any member of South Dakota Right to Life) can say is already clearly protected by current law.

If Tobin believes we need additional exceptions to South Dakota’s abortion ban, she needs to say so, clearly. She needs to tell South Dakota Right to Life that they are wrong on this issue, that women deserve more control over their bodies, that the state ought not place women at risk of crippling physical injury just to satisfy Republicans’ religious absolutism and “pro-life” marketing strategy.

But being beholden to South Dakota Right to Life and South Dakota’s Christo-fascist establishment evidently renders Tobin and others rhetorically impotent in discussing the merits of women’s health. Instead of advocating for HB 1169 and its health exception itself, instead of daring to say the quiet part out loud—that the anti-abortion absolutism that propelled Republicans to electoral victory and control of the Supreme Court harms is wrong and that we must allow more women to abort their pregnancies—Tobin can only speak to the HB 1169 balkers in political terms.

Instead of composing an argument for allowing exceptions to protect pregnant women’s health, Tobin dedicates an entire paragraph to a misdirected sports metaphor:

The situation Republicans are in now is different than we have ever been in, as we have been on the defense for so long and have been defending life against the Supreme Court’s previous decision. Now we are on the offense. We, Republicans, have the ball in hand. The situation we are in could be compared to leading a football game by one point with a few minutes left, having the ball, and not making any bad decisions that could lead to a turnover. We need to keep our pro-life team educated, aware, and on task. There is so much more to lose than a football game. If we lose the ball, it is the end game, the final countdown, and everything is at stake [Sen. Erin Tobin, “HB 1169 Needed to Clarify Law and to Hold the Line Against Proposed Constitutional Amendment,” Dakota War College, 2023.02.10].

Hey, I know the Super Bowl is this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we have to reduce every serious policy discussion to football lingo… and especially not when the football metaphor doesn’t make any sense. Republicans weren’t on defense for the last 50 years. They were on offense, attacking Roe v. Wade and women’s rights, taking over the Judiciary, and overturning a standing Constitutional right. In South Dakota, they are defending the status quo of making sure women cannot access abortion—no abortion clinics, abortion pills banned, Attorney General Marty Jackley threatening to prosecute people who help women leave the state to abort pregnancies.

Tobin forgets her own football analogy and admits a few sentences later that Republicans are now on defense:

HB 1169 provided clarification to protect the life of the mother and keep pro-life Republican women protected in our legislative efforts.…

…We need to hold the line against the proposed constitutional amendment in 2024 [Tobin, 2023.02.10].

Tobin doesn’t explain what she means by protecting (a defensive term) pro-life Republican women in their legislative efforts. She doesn’t explain how HB 1169 would somehow “hold the line” (a defensive term) against a constitutional amendment, which would supersede HB 1169 and South Dakota’s current abortion laws.

Let me help. What Tobin is really trying to say is this:

We’ve gone too far. We can’t defend our current near-total ban on abortion. Voters want more exceptions, and if we don’t write more exceptions into law, they’ll turn on us, elect Democrats, and restore broader access to abortion. So, South Dakota Right to Life, if you don’t want to start losing elections, get your asses back on board and back HB 1169.

But Senator Tobin can’t say that. She and other Republican women can’t say what they mean to the misogynists absolutists who’ve made their party and their political careers. They can only wimper out with silly statements like Tobin’s closing line:

We will be bringing back HB 1169 next session. The time is now [Tobin, 2023.02.10].

The time is now, the Legislature is in Session, and we’ve still got a whole month to smoke out and hoghouse, but we’re going to wait a year to try again.

Is the time now, or is the time 2024? Are we clarifying the abortion ban, or are we adding an important exception to it? Are we protecting all women, or are we protecting Republican legislators in swing districts?

Senator Tobin is suffering from the same mushmouth that has infected a lot of Democrats on the abortion issue. She’s afraid to say what she’s really thinking because the theocratic anti-abortion machine has cowed her into euphemism. It’s a slightly softer version of Big Brother’s Newspeak from 1984: deny your opponents the full use of language, and they cannot resist.

You can’t win the argument if you can’t make your point. Senator Tobin, please, break the chains and make your point.


  1. e platypus onion 2023-02-11 09:23

    Abortions are safer than childbirth s0o forcing women to carry to term means more women will be forced to die. The very first time a woman dies from being forced to carry to term, all magats that voted for these draconian laws should be sentenced to death, no exceptions!

  2. larry kurtz 2023-02-11 09:28

    Bless her heart.

    The only way Democrats will regain any political power in my home state is when the SDGOP splinters into its two factions where more candidates run unaffiliated campaigns.

  3. Loren 2023-02-11 09:44

    You know how to “clarify” reproductive health? Ask a doctor, NOT a politician!

  4. Mark Anderson 2023-02-11 10:17

    I thought Florida was the place Republicans came to lie.

  5. P. Aitch 2023-02-11 14:40

    January/February exemplify the low self-esteem SD voters have. The majority elect “social simpletons” who act out “over the top” evil just trying to get noticed by big Red MAGA states like Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. It’s embarrassing to watch. Thankfully Cory makes it public. These haybillies used to hide in Pierre and nobody outside the state knew how foolish they were. Now Cory’s Blog exposes South Dakota nationally for the racist, anti-woman, anti-poor people place it truly is. Lowest possible self-esteem I tell ‘ya!!

  6. O 2023-02-11 15:15

    I’m not sure where the “wiggle room” is expected to be found with GOP legislators when the GOP platform says: “8.5 Sanctity of Life – We affirm the sanctity of human life, including the unborn, the elderly, the chronically ill, and the terminally ill. We oppose abortion and assisted suicide in all forms. We believe that life begins at conception.” This was/is the PUBLIC stance of the Republican Party. This was not hidden.

    This is not the language that says Republicans want a nuanced discussion of abortion. It is a black-and-white, moral, fundamental, existential basic tenant of faith. Anyone entering the debate believing otherwise is deluding themselves (especially when it comes to persuading the entire voting body of the legislature). It has been a constant battle for the Right since Roe and THEY HAVE FINALLY WON. The only sports analogy here is the game has ended and they WON. There are not more minutes on the clock, there are no more plays. There is no more offense and defense because the game is over. The winners can choose to not engage and let Dodd (and the trigger laws) stand.

    If abortion is to exist in SD (and elsewhere affected by the post-Dodd restrictions), the new game must be a constitutional mandate from the people that circumvents the skewed partisan politics of the legislative (and judicial) process.

  7. Jake 2023-02-11 16:42

    P-Aitch and “O”- you kinda say it all, alright! This Talibanesque GOP of South Dakota (and most other “red” states) has little else o their minds but control and power over all other people so that they ” think ” like the current GOP!

    Can anyone, even grudz, explain their actions to be anything but?

    And yes, thanks to Cory’s blog and a couple of other state blogs we the people finally are getting news that hasn’t been “massaged” over and “sugar-coated” by the GOP Taliban.

  8. grudznick 2023-02-11 18:02

    Mr. H, it is said you are a gambling aficionado extraordinaire. On which team are your hard earned quatloos wagered? grudznick wishes to profit from your skills.

  9. larry kurtz 2023-02-11 18:51

    Yeah Cory, tip your hand to the cravens who eat tubers with braised brains for breakfast.

  10. R. Kolbe 2023-02-11 19:43

    The Republicans and Birthers need the form a coalition the guarantees ( when a woman determines she does not want to complete the pregnancy) all medical and health expenses accrued by this pregnancy. All birth expenses. After the birt the individual(s) become the ward of the state.
    At this time all expenses covered
    This till age 21.
    Birthers need to be involved more than VOCALLY !

  11. DaveFN 2023-02-11 20:51

    E P O

    “Abortions are safer than childbirth”

    Debatable from the opposing side and such an argument remains unconvincing:

    “…forcing women to carry to term means more women will be forced to die”

    Sounds too much like “since vaccinations can be fatal means that the more we vaccinate, the more who will be forced to die from vaccinations.”

    Just sayin’

  12. bearcreekbat 2023-02-12 01:01

    Regardless of the accuracy of the analysis in the Right to Life link cited by DaveFN, that story omitted one actual fact for South Dakota showing the danger of abortions: With the repeal of the right of privacy for woman, and the corresponding changes in South Dakota criminal law all woman in SD currently stand a significantly greater chance of being affirmatively killed by the State for having an unauthorized abortion than they did prior to the Dobbs decision. Thus, at least from the perspective of being affirmatively killed by the State abortions are much more dangerous to a woman (and anyone helping her) than childbirth since South Dakota has no statutes permitting the the State to affirmatively kill women that go through with childbirth, nor statutes permitting the State to kill those that help the woman accomplish her abortion.

  13. bearcreekbat 2023-02-12 01:02

    Correction to lastr sentence: nor statutes permitting the State to kill those that help the woman accomplish her childbirth.

  14. leslie 2023-02-12 01:48

    epo-hogwash! Republican disinformation? why misrepresent medical science?

    “The risk of serious side effects associated with these vaccines is very small.”

    “Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are strongly recommended as safe and effective at preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19…. to December 2021, about 470 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the U.S.”

  15. larry kurtz 2023-02-12 11:02

    Pierre is a breeding pond for virulent ideologies so the SDDP needs to find the money and hire muckrakers like the Governor’s Club did to beat Tom Daschle and put Kristi Noem in office.

    Dusty Johnson has never stopped raising money so the SDDP needs to hound the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for cash and start running opposition ads on every commercial radio station in South Dakota. My party can recruit some respected Democrats to record radio spots then bombard the airwaves paving the way to 2024.

  16. DaveFN 2023-02-12 15:56

    e p o

    The Scientific American article is an **opinion** piece and thus carries no more weight than does the IRTL piece, however much you disagree with the the latter and agree with the former.


    As far as deaths from COVID vaccines, using CDC data:

    “As of January 8, 2021, 55 deaths were reported, and the mortality rate of COVID-19 vaccination was 8.2 per million population. A total of 37 deaths were reported among long-term care facility residents, and the mortality rate was 53.4 per million population. Top reported comorbidities associated with deaths included hypertension, dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and heart failure. In addition, dementia was more likely to be associated with deaths vaccinated at long-term care facilities than at other locations.”

    Do the math and scale accordingly: the more vaccinations, the more deaths from vaccinations however much you minimize the number.

    (That I happen to champion vaccines doesn’t make a whit of difference. Objectivity is the standard, not opinion).

  17. O 2023-02-12 18:39

    Larry, the problem with “virulent ideologies” is that they are virulent. Once a population is infected, the candidate who appeals to the infected population in the language of the tribal infection has the pathway to election success. For a democrat to win, he or she needs to first clean out the infection of GOP – now MAGA – think that constitutes the virulent infection that dominates the “thinking of the SD electorate. This must be done while the patient fights ALL efforts to destroy the infection and takes EVERY measure to actively care for and feed the infection. 70+% of those around will tell the voter that the infection is healthy and the treatment is the disease. Republicans are bearing the fruit of a long game; it will take an equally long game to dislodge that progress.

  18. justthefacts 2023-02-13 12:47

    The logic, or lack of it, used by the anti pro-choice people should be applied to men also. that being said, propose legislation banning any vasectomies or use of contraception by males as it is ‘killing a life that has a right to live”. In this manner the pro-life people could really have opportunities to adopt ALL of the unwanted “lives” that are brought into the world in South Dakota. Of course a legislator would also have to pass some laws which would require the males who are fathering these “wanted” children be required to, at a minimum, provide substantial monetary contributions so that “wanted” child could be afforded all the things required by little lives… parents, shelter, food, and a decent education so they, in the end, can be contributing members of our society.

    Or am I missing something? ha ha…

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