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Noem suggests special session, Thune calls for investigation after Supreme Court Roe v. Wade draft leaks

Gov. Noem and Sen. Thune, both pro-life Republicans, had different messages, with one focusing on abortion and the other focusing on judicial independence.

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Governor Kristi Noem delivers her State of the State address on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 in the house chambers in the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre.
Mitchell Republic file photo

PIERRE — Some of South Dakota’s political leaders were quick to speak out about a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Others were not.

On Monday evening, news broke on Politico of a leaked draft majority opinion which suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. If overturned, abortion regulations would be decided on a state-by-state basis.

In an apparent effort to swiftly put legislation on the books in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem took to Twitter on Monday night roughly an hour after the story broke to say that, if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, she would immediately bring lawmakers back to Pierre for a special session.

“If this report is true and Roe v. Wade is overturned, I will immediately call for a special session to save lives and guarantee that every unborn child has a right to life in South Dakota,” Noem tweeted from her official government account.

Noem has long made clear her stance on abortion. Her campaign website features an article listing abortion-related legislation she’s had a hand in since becoming governor in 2019. Most notable is a bill she proposed during the 2022 regular session of the South Dakota Legislature that would have prohibited abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. That bill died in committee.

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It’s uncertain what specific legislation or policies Noem would advocate for in a special session, as her communications director, Ian Fury, did not respond to a request for comment. She did, however, tweet from her personal account Tuesday that “everyday would be a good day to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

According to the Office of the Secretary of State’s website, special sessions can be called by the governor or by a two-thirds concurrence of the members of each house if a specific purpose is presented.

A special session called by Noem would mark the 19th such instance in the state’s history.

Thune: Informant should be “fully” punished

Sen. John Thune took to the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday to piggyback on earlier remarks from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In a speech filled with references to the “radical left,” McConnell suggested the last night’s demonstrations at the Supreme Court — a result of the leak — signaled “a new low” of what he called years-long attacks on the institution of the Supreme Court by Democrats.

“Judicial independence is vital, but the far left has spent years shamelessly attacking it,” McConnell said. “And now last night, in a shocking, shocking news brief, somebody, likely somebody inside the court itself, leaked a confidential internal draft to the press, almost certainly in an effort to stir up an inappropriate pressure campaign to sway an outcome. Liberals want to rip the blindfold off Lady Justice.”

McConnell continued by noting that never before in modern history has a Supreme Court internal draft been leaked to the public while Justices were still deliberating, adding that the situation warranted a full investigation and even criminal charges.

“This lawless action should be investigated and punished to the fullest extent possible. Fullest. Extent. Possible,” McConnell said. “I’m certain the Chief Justice will seek to get to the bottom of this. If a crime was committed, the Department of Justice must pursue it completely.”

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Senator John Thune speaks at the Mitchell Rotary Club's meeting on Jan. 28, 2022, at Blarney's Sportsbar and Grill in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Following McConnell’s speech, Thune took the Senate floor to attach himself to McConnell’s comments.

“I just want to briefly associate myself with remarks of Republican Leader Sen. McConnell with respect to the alleged breach of the Supreme Court and reiterate that this is a lawless action,” Thune said. “If it turns out to be what we believe to be true, then it should be investigated and punished as fully as possible. The Chief Justice has to get to the bottom of this and, if applicable, the Department of Justice needs to pursue any criminal charges.”

Citing McConnell again, Thune said Supreme Court Justices must remain independent and ignore any reactions from outside the court.

“I believe that, as Sen. McConnell pointed out, all nine Justices of the Supreme Court should tune out the bad faith noise and feel totally free to do their jobs, following the facts and the law where they lead,” Thune said. “We need an independent Supreme Court and we should, at every turn, be defending the independence of our Supreme Court.”

Thune, who supports a ban on abortion except in instances of rape, incest and endangerment of a mother’s life, has not made any other public statement regarding the matter.

Johnson, Rounds reaffirm purposeful independence of judicial branch

Rep. Dusty Johnson issued a short and simple statement Tuesday afternoon, calling for the individual responsible for the leak to be held accountable.

“The Supreme Court holds a reputation for staying out of the political fray. This leak is an unprecedented erosion of norms and risks politicizing the highest court in the land," Johnson said. "Whoever made this document public should be held accountable.”

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He added that he doesn't believe Roe v. Wade should be used as justification for getting an abortion.

“I’ve never believed the Roe v. Wade decision – which was ultimately a personal privacy case – was a justification to take a human life," Johnson said. "The unborn deserve protection.”

Johnson is a pro-life Republican who has a voting history opposing the abolition of pro-life protections. He received an A+ pro-life rating from the Susan B. Anthony List Scorecard.

Sen. Mike Rounds said the Founding Fathers specifically meant for the Supreme Court to be non-partisan and called for an investigation into the leak.

“Our Framers intended for the Supreme Court to be an independent judiciary, separate and distinct from the executive and legislative branches," Rounds said. "The information being reported on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case was wrongfully leaked from the Court. The Court should investigate and hold accountable whoever is responsible for this breach."
 
With the belief that life must be protected from conception to natural death, Rounds said policymakers have a job to make it easier to choose life.

“I am pro-life and firmly believe abortion is wrong. However, I recognize that if this case is decided as reported, individuals across the country will be faced with difficult, emotional decisions," Rounds said. "Our job as policymakers should be to make it easier for individuals to choose life, whether that be making certain they have the proper means to raise a child or the confidence to know adoption is a viable option."

This is a developing story. Check back with the Mitchell Republic for updates.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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