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SD officials react to Ohio's abortion vote

Dakotans For Health organizers register circulators for a petition to put abortion rights on the 2024 ballot
Lee Strubinger
Dakotans For Health organizers register circulators in downtown Sioux Falls for a petition to put abortion rights on the 2024 ballot.

Abortion rights groups in South Dakota are celebrating Tuesday’s election results in Ohio. There, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing the right to abortion.

A similar question could reach additional state ballots next year.

Ohio joins a list of several majority Republican states—including Kansas, Kentucky and Montana— delivering wins for abortion rights protections.

Rick Weiland is the co-founder of Dakotans For Health, which is gathering signatures to enshrine abortion rights in the South Dakota constitution. He said Ohio’s results are a huge win.

“I think that bodes well for what we’re trying to do in getting this on the ballot and letting the people decide,” Weiland said. “Not the politicians in Pierre.”

The proposal prohibits abortion restrictions during the first trimester,  allows restrictions in the second trimester and allows a state regulation or ban in the third trimester, except to preserve the life or health of the pregnant woman.

Dakotans For Health have been gathering signatures for about a year, and have until May 7 to submit 35,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.

“South Dakota is not Ohio. Abortion up to nine months, safety protections for women completely stripped, and parental rights eroded have no place here," said Rep. Jon Hansen(R-Dell Rapids), who heads the Life Defense Fund. "The heartless abortion industry can try to harm women and children, but we will fight against this evil at every turn.”

In a newsletter ahead of Tuesday’s vote, South Dakota Right To Life said whatever happens in Ohio, the group will move forward in efforts to stop the South Dakota “proposed radical abortion constitutional amendment.”

That group holds a tight grip on the state's abortion policy.

South Dakota’s only abortion exception is to save the life of the mother. Some providers say the state’s current law is unclear. Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt’s (R-Sioux Falls) attempts to clarify it stalled last session.

When thinking about Ohio’s results, the Sioux Falls nurse said ten percent of South Dakotans are on either extreme of the abortion debate.

“I do think that it should cause those of us that are pro-life and want to make sure abortion isn’t legalized through birth, that we think about things strategically and consider where 80 percent of the population is," Rehfeldt said.

Rehfeldt said she’s working on another clarification bill this coming session, which starts Jan. 9.

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.
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