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Lawmakers advance abortion shield law

House Bill 1220, which prohibits legal repercussions against women who illegally undergo abortion treatment, passed the Senate Monday with support from both parties.

Republican Sen. Jessica Castleberry sponsored the bill. Castleberry said she views woman who elect to undergo abortion treatment as victims, not perpetrators.

“We can continue to create policy to protect unborn children, but we can also create policy to not further harm abortion-vulnerable women," Castleberry said. "Women are victims of abortion and require our empathy and support, as well as access to counseling and social service. House Bill 1220 ensures any woman who undergoes an unlawful abortion will not be held criminally liable.”

Earlier in the session a letter was shared with lawmakers signed by dozens of organizations opposed to legal abortion, including South Dakota Right to Life, advocating for similar policy.

Sen. Al Novstrup read from the letter on the floor of the Senate Monday.

“We will continue to oppose legislative and policy initiatives that criminalize women who seek abortion and will continue to work for initiatives that protect unborn children, and policies that provide and strengthen life-affirming resources for abortion-vulnerable women," Novstrup said. "We call upon all pro-life legislators to vote yes on this bill.”

HB 1220 passed with only a single nay vote, coming from Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller.

“I will be voting no on this bill, even though Right to Life is supporting it because I don’t want to make excuses for people who, in my opinion – I understand it’s hard – but the baby is – shouldn’t be the consequence,” Frye-Mueller said.

It next goes to the governor’s desk.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture