Bill to dramatically upend surrogacy in South Dakota fails in the House of Representatives

The measure would have required that expectant parents formally adopt their infant from the gestational carrier following what the prime sponsor called a "six-month bonding" period. The bill, called an "anti-surrogacy" measure by proponents, was downed in a close vote.

The South Dakota House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
We are part of The Trust Project.

PIERRE, S.D. — A bill that would have ended surrogacy in South Dakota as it is currently practiced failed on Thursday, Feb. 17, in a close vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The GOP-dominated chamber voted 38-29 in opposition to House Bill 1311, which would have declared null and void any so-called "pre-birth" contracts between prospective parents and a gestational carrier or surrogate.

The vote followed at times stormy rhetoric on the House floor, as bill supporters characterized the practice of surrogacy as tantamount to a violation of human rights.

"You should not be able to contract for the ownership and transfer of human beings," argued Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, in remarks in favor of HB 1311. "You should not be able to contract for the manufacture of a human being."

The comparison drew a charged response from Rep. Caleb Finck, R-Tripp, who called the measure an "anti-surrogacy bill."


"I am appalled by the words spoken before me," said Finck, his voice rising. "We are not talking about buying and selling the property, the manufacture of human beings. We are talking about parents, or married couples ... who want to be parents ... and for whatever reason, part of God's design, they can't do it themselves. So someone steps in and says, 'I could help with that.' That's what we're talking about."

Rep. Caleb Finck, a Republican from Tripp, South Dakota.

Under the terms of HB 1311, which purported to "clarify the means of voluntarily terminating a relationship between a birth mother and a child," the measure would have prohibited any contract that forces a "birth mother to terminate her relationship" with a child in utero.

The bill went on to silence any court order, as well, that sought to separate a birth mother and her child.

The bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, said her measure sough to clear up "some confusion in the courts."

Unlike a traditional surrogacy model, where a child is delivered to the intended parents, Soye's bill said that a child would be adopted after what Soye called a "six-month bonding period" with the birth mother.

Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, R-Sioux Falls, objected to this arrangement, saying it was "deceitful" to mischaracterize the relationship between gestational carriers and intended parents.

"There is a misconception that this is all about this voodoo commercial surrogacy where somebody is doing something wrong," said Rehfeldt. "These people in our state need our compassion."

Rehfeldt did acknowledge that South Dakota lacks any meaningful surrogacy laws. While the bill was defeated, it was but one of three surrogacy bills in the Legislature this session.
Last week, a Senate measure backed by surrogacy proponents failed in a narrow vote on the Senate floor. A separate hog-house measure has been tabled by the House judiciary committee.


Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
What to read next
To supplement their time away from their full-time jobs, legislators are paid for each legislative day they work. Assuming all 105 lawmakers attend, special sessions cost taxpayers $47,072.55 per day.
With in-state abortions now illegal in most circumstances, few options remain for South Dakotans looking to terminate a pregnancy. During an upcoming special legislative session, lawmakers and lobbyists have indicated a desire to restrict out-of-state abortions, too.
The South Dakota governor has released her autobiography, “Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland."
Smoke bombs and crowd control tactics were employed as protesters took to the streets in an unpermitted protest that police say challenged their ability to keep everyone safe.