Texas has the tightest abortion laws in the country. But that won’t be the case for long if Gov. Kristi Noem has her way.
Women can’t terminate a pregnancy in the state of South Dakota beyond 22 weeks of gestation. But now that the United States Supreme Court has refused to block a six-week abortion ban adopted in the Lone Star State, the South Dakota governor is pushing for tighter abortion laws at home, too.
“Following the Supreme Court’s decision to leave the pro-life (Texas) law in place, I have directed the Unborn Child Advocate in my office to immediately review the new (Texas) law and current South Dakota laws to make sure we have the strongest pro life laws on the books in (South Dakota),” Noem said in a statement posted to social media Thursday.
The Texas Legislature and its Republican governor in May passed law shortening the time since fertilization that a pregnancy can be electively terminated from 20 weeks to six, sparking a legal challenge from groups like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyering Project.
And this week, the country’s highest court opted not to consider the case, denying an emergency appeal request after a federal court in New Orleans ruled in favor of Texas in August.
Mark Miller, an attorney and legal advisor in the governor’s office, fills the role Noem referred to as an “Unborn Child Advocate” and handles lobbying efforts related to abortion laws during South Dakota’s annual lawmaking session in Pierre each winter.
This spring, Noem told the Argus Leader she’s an absolutist when it comes to her pro-life stance, desiring a complete ban on abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.
Noem’s ambitions require a willing Legislature, which has passed anti-abortion statutes with regularity in recent years. During the 2021 Legislative Session, five separate measures restricting abortion rights were passed and approved, including one prohibiting a Downs Syndrome diagnose in a fetus as justification for terminating a pregnancy.
Another bill that earned passage in South Dakota last year would have required certain literature be provided to women when also receiving abortion-inducing drugs.
But last month, a U.S. District Court struck down that requirement, a decision that is being appealed by South Dakota.
Should Noem successfully push through a six-week abortion ban, it’s likely more litigation would follow.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s top reproductive health clinic and abortion provider, characterizes efforts to move to a six-week abortion bans as a “blatantly unconstitutional attack.” And the ACLU of South Dakota has vowed to push back against any restrictions proposed to weaken pro-choice protections.
“We’ve been fighting off attacks against women’s reproductive rights in South Dakota for a long time and that’s not something that’s going to stop,” said Janna Farley, a spokeswoman for the ACLU in Sioux Falls.