(WASHINGTON) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Sunday that women shouldn’t be prosecuted for seeking abortions following the Supreme Court’s ruling last week overturning Roe v. Wade, which allowed state-level abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere to take effect.
Noem, a Republican, celebrated the high court’s finding that there is no constitutional guarantee to abortion access, but she told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz, “I don’t believe women should ever be prosecuted. I don’t believe that mothers in this situation [should] ever be prosecuted. Now doctors who knowingly violate the law, they should be prosecuted.”
South Dakota was one multiple states that had in place a so-called “trigger law,” which immediately banned abortions once the Supreme Court announced its ruling, according to the research and policy group Guttmacher Institute. Following the court’s decision, all abortions in the state became illegal “unless there is appropriate and reasonable medical judgment that performance of an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant female.”
The law makes performing an abortion — either through a procedure or via medicine — a felony.
However, Noem said Sunday, “I don’t believe there should be any punishment for women, ever, that are in a crisis situation or have an unplanned pregnancy. And South Dakota has been strong on that argument.” She called the new court ruling “wonderful news in the defense of life. Every life is precious.”
“We want to help support these mothers,” she continued. “I think we can do better in this country making sure that we’re walking alongside them in these situations.”
Raddatz cited data from the nonpartisan social policy think tank Commonwealth Fund that “the 14 states that have the most restrictive abortion laws, including South Dakota, invest the least in policies and programs for women and children.”
“So what do you mean when you say these mothers will never be alone?” she asked, challenging Noem.
“I would say that the facts on the ground are that South Dakota’s doing a lot to coordinate with nonprofits, with churches, and then also the state in a new way by launching this website,” Noem answered, referring to a government portal with information about resources for pregnant women and new mothers.
The Supreme Court handed down its decision reversing Roe on Friday, ruling that there was not a constitutional guarantee to abortion access and that abortions could be regulated, or banned, by each state individually.
Raddatz noted in 2006 and in 2008 that South Dakota voters rejected initiatives for complete bans on abortion. She asked Noem if the governor would “be willing to let the voters of the state decide the issue again?”
Noem said voters decide the issue of abortion “every single year when we come to legislative sessions.”
“They vote for their representatives to come to sessions,” she said.
President Joe Biden, responding to the Roe reversal, said Friday that his administration would work to protect certain medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, “like contraception, which is essential for preventative healthcare [and] mifepristone, which the FDA approved 20 years ago to safely end early pregnancies and is commonly used to treat miscarriages.”
When Raddatz pushed Noem on her stance on abortions via medication, using the “so-called abortion pill,” Noem said she didn’t believe telemedicine abortions were safe.
“I don’t believe that telemedicine abortions are safe for individuals, for women to conduct at home, many times they’re doing it unsupervised. It’s a medical procedure, and so I do believe that there should be a physician supervision in place when that is being conducted by individual,” Noem said.
Medication abortions are considered safe, according to the nonprofit organization Kaiser Family Foundation, “with a 0.4% risk of major complications, and an associated mortality rate of less than 0.001 percent (0.00064%).”
She also said she thinks there will be continued discussion among local lawmakers about the legality of constituents who travel across state borders to get an abortion elsewhere.
“That, certainly, isn’t addressed in our statute today and so I think that there’ll be a debate about [it], but also we’re having lots of debates in South Dakota,” she said.
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