A pro-life fetal heartbeat bill in South Dakota supported by Republican Governor Kristi Noem has been blocked by other Republicans in the state legislature. They allege that the bill might interfere with ongoing litigation against Planned Parenthood in the state.
Noem proposed the bill based on the Texas Heartbeat Act in her State of the State Address last month. The bill would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is medically detected, usually at around the sixth week of pregnancy. The legislature greeted her proposal at the time with a standing ovation.
The situation changed on Wednesday last week when the House State Affairs Committee, controlled by Republicans, decided against giving the bill a hearing. That refusal means the bill cannot be considered this legislative year again.
Members of the committee said that they believe the bill could impair a lawsuit currently on appeal in the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. They said the current case could challenge the 1973 decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, which declared abortion is a right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Republican state House Speaker Spencer Gosch said that because he is “as pro-life as can be,” he does not want to jeopardize the state’s involvement in a case that might “abolish abortion in the country.”
Noem has said that she strongly disagrees with Gosch and hammered the House Committee for deciding against even giving the bill a hearing. She said that it grieves her that Republicans are taking the “unprecedented action” based on the advice of “one out-of-state lawyer.” She said that national leaders in the pro-life movement believe that “now is the time” for the type of bill.
A Noem spokesman said that the lawyer she referred to was Harold Cassidy of New Jersey. Cassidy’s website describes him as the “leading attorney in the nation” for protecting mothers against the abortion industry and says he serves as a consultant for pro-life lawmakers in several US states.
The case on appeal in the Eighth Circuit Court involves a complaint filed against Noem by Planned Parenthood challenging a South Dakota law that requires women to receive crisis pregnancy consultation before obtaining an abortion. Last August, a federal trial court ruled that the law places an undue burden on abortions and infringes female patients’ free speech rights.
The Noem spokesman disputed the claim that the state heartbeat bill would damage the case on appeal. He added that it could only impact the case by prompting Planned Parenthood to leave the state entirely. He pointed out that such a move would achieve the goal of protecting unborn life in the state in any event because Planned Parenthood is the only abortion clinic operating in South Dakota.
Noem said there could have been a “fantastic debate” before the committee. As it stands, South Dakota must wait along with the rest of the nation to see if the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade later this year when the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected to be delivered.