PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday said she would push legislation to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, as she laid out a sharply conservative list of priorities to start the state’s legislative session.
During the final State of the State address of her first term, the Republican governor proposed what amounted to a wishlist for conservative voters, promising to make it easier for state residents to get a permit to carry concealed firearms and nearly impossible for them to get an abortion. She is also proposing a requirement that schools allot time for prayer, a ban on the teaching of controversial material on race in public schools and ensured exemptions from COVID-19 vaccines for medical or religious reasons.
“In South Dakota, we protect freedom, and we will pass it on to our children, and we will not allow freedom to go extinct,” the governor said, as she derided other states for enacting restrictions to prevent and slow COVID-19 infections.
Noem has used her hands-off approach to the pandemic to generate nationwide attention among Republicans. She has positioned herself for a 2024 White House bid, and her speech Tuesday showed a willingness to tap into the country’s most incendiary social issues to stay in the spotlight.
“It was a campaign speech,” said Rep. Jamie Smith, the House Democratic leader, adding that it was a “blueprint of how conservative can I be?”
The governor’s office did not immediately release details on the bill to ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy — often known as “heartbeat law.” The Supreme Court’s willingness to consider striking down Roe v. Wade — the 1973 decision that established the right to an abortion nationwide — has prompted a flurry of bill-writing in Statehouses.
But medical experts say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus it is at least nine weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
“Today, I am asking all of you to protect the heartbeats of these unborn children,” Noem told the lawmakers assembled in the House chamber. “I am bringing legislation to ban all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected.”
The proposal received a standing ovation from the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Noem also touted a $116 million tax surplus and proposed using that to slash fees for applications for concealed weapon permits, including covering the cost of federal background checks. She also proposed cutting fees to register businesses with the Secretary of State and cutting a tax on bingo operations.