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Abortion illegal in South Dakota due to Supreme Court ruling; special session of Legislature planned

South Dakota is one of 13 states with what's known as a trigger law, meaning the state enacts an abortion ban under its own authority when the Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The Planned Parenthood health care clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Planned Parenthood health care clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota<br/>
Jeremy Fugleberg / Forum News Service
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Abortions are now a crime in South Dakota, after a Supreme Court ruling Friday , June 24, triggered a state ban. A special session of the state Legislature will be called later this year to enact further abortion laws.

The Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson reversed the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision , opening the door for states to decide abortion access for themselves. The ruling was widely expected in the wake of a draft of the decision leaked in May.

South Dakota is one of 13 states with a "trigger" law that would ban abortion in the state if the Supreme Court ever overturned Roe. North Dakota's trigger law bans abortion in the state within 30 days of Roe being overturned.

After the ruling, Gov. Kristi Noem and South Dakota legislative leaders on Friday said they plan to now plan to call a special session of the Legislature to consider additional laws regarding abortion.

“Every abortion always had two victims: the unborn child and the mother. Today’s decision will save unborn lives in South Dakota, but there is more work to do,” said Noem in a statement. “We must do what we can to help mothers in crisis know that there are options and resources available for them. Together, we will ensure that abortion is not only illegal in South Dakota — it is unthinkable.”


Current state law now decrees that providing an abortion is a felony — punishable by up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine — except when needed to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Jamie Smith, the House minority leader and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, responded to the news on Twitter guessing what legislation Noem might propose.

"As I’ve said from the beginning: we have to respect the will of SD voters. The Roe decision will likely prompt an attempt by Kristi Noem to completely ban abortion in SD," he said. "We’ve voted on this issue twice and decided both times that some access should remain. Reason must prevail."

Abortions haven't been available in the state since mid-June, when Planned Parenthood told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper its clinic in Sioux Falls was had paused the provision of abortions in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision. The clinic was the only place in the state to get an abortion.

Becca Clemens / Forum Design Center

On Friday, Planned Parenthood called the decision "wrong" and "an unconscionable rollback of fundamental rights for all people in the United States" and noted abortions remain legal in Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska and

“We have been preparing for months to be able to best serve patients across our region," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, in a statement. "Our doors are open and Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care where it remains legal."

Planned Parenthood has said it expects Minnesota to see a 10-25% increase in the number of people seeking abortions, as those from surrounding states travel there for care.

South Dakota's Legislature and state leaders have regularly sought to raise hurdles and limit access to abortions, including enacting the 2005 trigger law.


In March, Noem signed a law that would make the state one of the most difficult places to get abortion pills, although that law is on hold as due to a legal challenge in the federal courts.

Noem has said she believes abortion should be banned without exception, including in cases of incest or the life of the mother.

On Friday, Noem announced the launch of a new state website, life.sd.gov , offering resources and assistance with pregnancy, parenting, financial assistance and adoption.

More reaction:

  • South Dakota Right to Life: “South Dakota Right to Life enthusiastically applauds this decision. We will continue helping women navigate pregnancies they did not plan for as we remind South Dakotan's that the pro-life movement cares about women and their unborn children,” — Executive Director Dale Bartscher.
  • ACLU of South Dakota: “Anti-abortion politicians have put South Dakota on the wrong side of history for too long, and the ACLU is determined not to let them off the hook. The ACLU of South Dakota is mobilizing supporters to make sure that these anti-abortion politicians feel the consequences of their brazen disregard for our rights." — — Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota campaigns director.
  • Sen. John Thune, R-SD: “This decision to overturn Roe is long overdue, and it’s a historic day in the pro-life movement. Our country is dedicated to the defense of human rights, and I hope that we can further live up to that promise with the question of abortion now rightfully returned to the states, the democratic process, and to elected officials who can be held accountable to the American people for their decisions.”
  • Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-SD: “I’ve never believed the Roe v. Wade decision – which was ultimately a personal privacy case – was a justification to take a human life. The unborn deserve protection."
  • South Dakota Democratic Party: ""Kristi Noem’s extremist views are out-of-line with most South Dakotans and put partisan goals above common sense. While Kristi Noem claims to be a champion for freedom, in reality, she’s the number one advocate for controlling the lives of South Dakotans," the party wrote. "All South Dakotans deserve the freedom to make their own healthcare decisions - including the choice to have an abortion."


Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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