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Noem to introduce two abortion bills, giving South Dakota ‘strongest pro-life laws’ in nation

Gov. Noem announced two draft bills Friday after teasing them in her annual State of the State address on Jan. 11.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem budget address
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her budget address on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, in the house chambers inside the state capitol in Pierre.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
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PIERRE — Gov. Kristi Noem announced Friday the text of two bills she will introduce to lawmakers in the state legislature that will ban nearly all abortions, a move she claims will ensure South Dakota has stronger abortion laws than any other state.

One bill will ban abortions in the state after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, while the other will prevent doctors from prescribing abortion medications through telemedicine services.

The first draft bill unveiled, dubbed “heartbeat legislation” by the Noem administration, adds a definition of pregnancy to the state’s lawbook as beginning at fertilization, while preventing the termination of a fetus as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected — which is shortly after five weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic .

The draft heartbeat bill specifies that nothing in it shall be construed to “create or recognize a right to abortion before a fetal heartbeat is detected,” though some women may not know they’re pregnant for weeks after a heartbeat could be detected .

Some sections of the draft match word-for-word with Texas’ heartbeat bill, which some critics consider a near-total ban on abortion. Other sections closely mimic it, allowing individuals to sue someone who knowingly performs or receives an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, or anyone who aids or abets a violation of the proposed law.

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Complainants who successfully sue would be entitled to a minimum $10,000 reward from the defendant.

Noem’s other draft bill, which bans abortions via telemedicine, specifies that women seeking a medical abortion may only consume Mifepristone or Misoprostol — two of the most common drugs to initiate and complete an abortion — for up to nine weeks after conception.

After taking Mifepristone, guidelines on Planned Parenthood’s website say a woman could take Misoprostol at home before scheduling a follow-up appointment to ensure the abortion is complete. Noem’s bill, however, would require women to return to the clinic for the dispensing of the second round of pills, before scheduling a follow-up visit two weeks later.

Abortions via telemedicine have been outlawed in the state since September 2021, when Noem issued an executive order directing the South Dakota Department of Health to create rules prohibiting them.

An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown in Austin, Texas, June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman
An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown in Austin, Texas, June 27, 2016.
REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman

Noem teased the premiere of these bills in her annual State of the State address on Jan. 11, where she said she looks forward to the day where the lives of all unborn children are protected.

“The Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to make that a reality. As soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned, our state laws are ready to protect every unborn South Dakota child,” she said in her address. “But until then, we can take steps to protect South Dakota children, today.”

On Friday, during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Governor’s Office issued a press release announcing the bills, including Noem’s hope that this year’s march would be the last.

“Every human life is unique and beautiful from the moment it is conceived. Every life is worthy of our protection, worthy of the right to live,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “We hope that this year’s March for Life will be the last and that the Supreme Court will finally protect every unborn life. But until that comes to pass, these bills will ensure that both unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”

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Shortly after her announcement, Planned Parenthood issued a statement denouncing Noem’s proposal to tighten the law.

“Today, Governor Kristi Noem introduced a Texas-style abortion ban, that prohibits abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and turns citizens into enforcers of the law by placing a bounty on anyone who helps someone get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy,” their statement read. “The bill is a copycat of a similar law that went into effect in Texas, S.B. 8, this fall.”

Since Texas’ restrictive law went into effect, neighboring states saw a 1,082% increase in patients with Texas zip codes seeking abortion at Planned Parenthood facilities, the organization claimed, adding that the law interferes with the health care provider’s ability to serve their patients.

“Health care providers are compassionate, skilled medical professionals who should be able to do the job they were trained to do without hesitation — including providing both abortion and miscarriage care,” their statement concluded.

Before the bills can make it onto the agendas of any legislative committee, Noem will need to find a sponsor willing to introduce the bills — which won’t be difficult in the Republican supermajority legislature.

The bills will be scheduled for their first hearings approximately four days following their introduction, which has not yet been set.

Noem’s full announcement, along with the text of the draft bills, can be found on the Governor’s website .

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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