In a move sure to cause pro-life supporters some puzzlement, a Republican-controlled committee in the South Dakota legislature has refused to consider a “heartbeat bill” offered by Governor Kristi Noem. Patterned after the Texas Heartbeat Bill, the proposed bill would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected – usually around six weeks gestation.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court has declined four times thus far since last September to block the Texas law, and it has slowed abortions in the Lone Star State significantly, the action of the South Dakota House State Affairs committee in refusing to consider the bill naturally raises questions.
As it turns out, Republicans in the South Dakota legislature haven’t suddenly turned pro-abortion, but they have offered logistical and legal reasons for rejecting the Governor’s draft.
The Republican Speaker of the House, Spencer Gosch, told The Associated Press that the governor’s timing was bad.
“They showed up late to the game last minute, even last hour type stuff and it didn’t pass,” Gosch said. “Simple as that.”
Gosch and social conservatives in the state are also worried the legislation, as written, would jeopardize an ongoing legal battle the state is already engaged in with Planned Parenthood, in which the abortion seller is challenging the constitutionality of a state law passed in 2011 requiring abortion-minded women to talk to a pro-life pregnancy resource center before obtaining an abortion.
That lawsuit is currently being heard by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We were not in support of the governor’s original draft language,” director of South Dakota Right to Life, Dale Bartscher, said. He told the AP that he was hoping the governor would make revisions and bring the bill back.
“The South Dakota state legislature has always guaranteed that every bill gets a hearing, and that is something that I’ve always loved about our process,” the governor said. “We have rules and an open process, and we play by those rules. To our knowledge, this is the first time in decades that a bill has been denied a hearing.”
Noem’s bill is supported by the national pro-life group, Susan B. Anthony List.
“We’re proud to again stand with Gov. Noem and pro-life South Dakotans in their tireless efforts to make South Dakota the safest place in the nation for unborn children and their mothers,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a press release from Noem’s office. “This legislation will save the lives of babies in the womb, with beating hearts like you and me. …”
This is the second time in two weeks that a Republican-controlled committee in the South Dakota House has killed a bill offered by Noem. On January 21, the House Education Committee voted 9-6 to reject a “moment of silence” bill submitted by the governor that would require public schools to offer students a few minutes for reflection or prayer before the school day commences.
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