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Effort to define lone abortion exemption stalls

Lee Strubinger

A lawmaker is shelving an attempt to clarify the only abortion exception in South Dakota state law: life of the mother.

The bill was opposed by the state’s preeminent anti-abortion group.

Health care providers have called for better benchmarks to determine what “life of the mother” means when it comes to providing an abortion.

The state’s current abortion law went into effect immediately following the Dobb’s decision last year.

Republican Representative Taylor Rehfeldt
Republican Representative Taylor Rehfeldt

Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt is abandoning her bill this session. The Sioux Falls Republican said she was unable to get consensus on the language.

“I would have never thought that preserving the life of the mother would be debatable or even considered not ‘pro-life’ by some," Rehfeldt said. "Who would think that being pro-life could mean that we do not protect women? That we are not willing to provide clarification for doctors who have given their lives to care for not just one, but two patients.”

Rehfeld said she worked with South Dakota Right To Life on the legislation. The group opposed the bill.

South Dakota Right To Life is very influential in the statehouse on abortion policy. The president of the group, Dale Bartscher, declined to comment about opposition to the bill.

Rehfeldt said she will work on defining life of the mother and bring a bill next session.

Meanwhile, some OBGYN’s in the state say the state’s current law is vague. That makes it difficult to know when to provide an abortion. They say if doctors are unsure that can lead to bad health outcomes.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.