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  • Writer's pictureDakotans For Health

South Dakota: likely test case in the battle to write reproductive rights into state constitutions.

Updated: May 13, 2023

On Wednesday, November 3rd Federal Judge Charles B Kornmann rejected Governor Noem’s request to stop his August ruling that grassroots activists could continue to collect signature for Initiated Measures until May of 2022:

By Rick Weiland and Dr. Amy Kelly

South Dakota is emerging as a, perhaps even the test state, in the coming state by state street fighting to determine a woman’s right to reproductive freedom across America.

Republican presidential wannabe Kristi Noem’s recent taunting of Governor DeSantis for failing to sufficiently walk the anti-abortion walk indicates she will try to make South Dakota’s “no exceptions even for rape, an embryo is a person with full legal rights from the instant of conception” laws into her sword for severing DeSantis from the Trumpy base that will select the next GOP nominee. This decision all but guarantees that anti-abortion cash, already being mobilized for an all-out effort to reverse the Kansas-Michigan state by state reversals that threaten to neuter its big Dobbs win, will flood into South Dakota to defeat the fight being mounted here to write Roe v. Wade into the state’s constitution.

Governor Noem cannot afford to lose. Neither can the National Right to Life Committee. And neither can we!

Dakotans for Health began our fight to protect Roe the day the Dobbs wording was leaked, but South Dakota law made getting our proposed Roe amendment to the South Dakota constitution on the ballot in 2022 impossible. That means we must win in 2024, long after the white-hot anger that powered Kansas, Michigan and four other states to reproductive rights victory has faded, and into the teeth of a popular, just re-elected Governor’s fight to cement her base by defeating us.

If we can win by taking the reproductive rights fight to the electorate in one of the reddest states in America, the die will be cast. Dobbs “let the states decide” framework for out lawing abortion will have been overturned. The NRLC will be forced to seek an outright national abortion ban, a bridge too far even for them.

Those are the stakes in South Dakota. We are about to become a test case for one of two propositions.

1. Kansas was a post Dobbs fluke and abortion will be entirely banned in 30-35 gerrymandered red and purple states.

2. The 80,248,723 energized women and men of the red and purple states where issues can be put directly to the voters will neuter Dobbs and restore reproductive rights by writing them into their states’ constitutions.

In 2022 Dakotans for Health helped to defeat South Dakota’s gerrymandered 92-13 GOP legislature by taking Medicaid expansion to the people. In 2024 the fight will be much harder, but we hope to do the same for reproductive rights!


Rick Weiland (Co-Founder, Dakotans for Health)

Amy Kelly (MD, FACOG)

About the authors:

Dr. Amy Kelley is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist in Sioux Falls, SD, and a reproductive rights activist and outspoken critic of South Dakota’s “trigger law” which outlaws terminating a pregnancy with only a “life of the mother” exception.

Rick Weiland is the Founder of Dakotans for Health and a longtime advocate for women’s reproductive rights.

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