South Dakota's top abortion rights advocate squares off with hostile Republicans
Dakotans for Health defends proposed amendment during tense committee hearing at state Capitol
PIERRE — Emotions ran high in the South Dakota Capitol Wednesday as pro-choice and pro-life advocates engaged in heated debate over a proposed ballot measure that would legalize abortion.
Republicans used the debate on House Concurrent Resolution 6008 as an opportunity to bring what they say is clarity to the ballot measure Dakotans for Health is sponsoring. That initiated measure would add abortion rights to the state Constitution. Wednesday’s debate highlighted the dispute about whether women should be able to get an abortion and when, as well as questions about technical implementation should voters approve the measure in November.
The meeting room of the House State Affairs Committee buzzed with tension as Dakotans For Health’s Rick Weiland wheeled in crates filled with hundreds of petitions his organization has circulated for more than a year, before taking a seat in front of a mostly hostile committee.
“I’m here today on behalf of the 50,000 citizens who’ve already signed our petition to let them vote on putting Roe v. Wade on our state Constitution. I also speak on behalf of the 65 percent of registered voters in South Dakota — 389,000 souls — who say they, not you, should be making this most personal of all decisions,” said Weiland, before accusing Republican lawmakers of overstepping the will of South Dakotans by letting a near-complete prohibition on abortion — known as the trigger law — remain in place following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.