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South Dakota Legislature Tables Bill That Could Have Banned Abortion at Seven Weeks

Teddy Wilson

Two South Dakota bills that would have imposed severe restrictions on abortion procedures as well as penalties on abortion providers, including possible life in prison, will not move forward in the legislature.

Two South Dakota bills that would have imposed severe restrictions on abortion procedures as well as penalties on abortion providers, including possible life in prison, will not move forward in the legislature after a hearing this week of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 1241, sponsored by Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-Tea), would have made illegal any abortion performed in which a “living” fetus is “dismembered” during an abortion. The legislation appeared to target dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, which may be used in a second-trimester abortion. Physicians told Rewire the bill could, in practice, have the effect of banning all surgical abortions in the state past seven weeks’ gestation.

Latterell also sponsored HB 1240, which would have banned abortions in cases when the fetus was “diagnosed with, or has had a genetic screening indicating that the unborn child may have Down syndrome.” During his testimony, Latterell cited his sisters, both of whom have Down syndrome, as examples for why the bill should be passed. “We must stop killing children simply because they have Down syndrome,” said Latterell. 

Susie Blake, a former South Dakota state representative, testified against the bill, saying the issue at hand is not about whether people with Down syndrome have value, but rather “a woman’s ability to have a choice.”

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Abbie Peterson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, testified that the bill would “insert the government into a woman’s medical decisions, by making a list of when and why a woman can exercise her right to legal abortion care.”

Committee members voted 8 to 4 to defer HB 1240, blocking it from being considered for a vote by the full house. Lawmakers said that the bill created legal complications for ongoing litigation on previously passed abortion restrictions in the state. “It’s too risky in my estimation to compromise that legal progress that we’ve made,” said Rep. Steve Hickey (R-Sioux Falls).

Latterell was the lone person to testify on behalf of HB 1241; he said he drafted amendments to the bill to address legal concerns about the language, but that he would not submit them to the committee. He went on to say that he would introduce a similar bill next year after working with physicians and attorneys to “come up the correct language to be successfully introduced and passed.” After his testimony, Latterell requested that the bill be tabled, and committee members voted 11 to 1 approving his request.

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