South Dakota Right to Life flunks 19 legislators on its latest anti-abortion scorecard... which means 19 legislators make the Madville Times honor roll for standing up for women's personal autonomy. The list includes 16 Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Rep. Susan Wismer (1/Britton) and my man Rep. Scott Parsley (8/Madison). Failing to fail are these Democrats:

  1. D: Rep. Kathy Tyler (4/Big Stone City)
  2. D: Rep. Ray Ring (17/Vermillion)
  3. D: Rep. Julie Bartling (D-21/Burke)
  4. A: Rep. Patrick Kirschman (D-15/Sioux Falls)

An A, Patrick? Boooo! Study harder!

Three Republicans make the RTL F-list/MT A-list: Sen. Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings), Sen. Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell), and Sen. Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City). None of those Senators faces a Republican primary; Senator Tieszen is unopposed in the general. We thus will not have the welcome opportunity to hear these Republican candidates educate their base as to why RTL's anti-abortion absolutism is really a distraction from good conservative policy-making.


Hey, Pat! Spencer! I'm pro-life. Want to call me a liar?

Dakota War College exudes its distaste for Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) and for truth by running two columns calling her a liar who wants to kill disabled babies.

The main thesis of these attacks (other than political intimidation and character assassination) is that in testifying against an expansion of South Dakota's legal hurdles to abortion, Rep. Tyler is lying when she calls herself as "pro-life."  (The same must be true for DWC's friend and Brookings Republican Rep. Scott Munsterman, who voted against the same bill Rep. Tyler opposed, HB 1240.)

In the over-simplified world of DWC's Pat Powers and South Dakota Right to Life screecher Spencer Cody, you're either pro-life or pro-abort, the foul term Cody throws at Rep. Tyler right alongside liar.

We've discussed this before: pro-life is an empty, mindless term. No one is pro-death. Everyone is in favor of life. We have honest, passionate disagreements about how best to make life better. Some of us think we best support life by supporting education, health care, Medicaid expansion, paid maternity leave, environmental protection, and income support for poor families. Spencer and Pat think we support life best by drowning out such policy conversations by screaming provocatively about abortion. I don't call them liars for that; I just call them wrong.


I thought Senate Health and Human Services' deadlock on House Bill 1162, the sex-selective-abortion ban, offered us some hope for rational restraint on anti-abortion laws in the South Dakota Legislature. I should have known better than to get optimistic.

Concerns about women's rights and anti-Asian-American stereotypes be darned, Senate HHS voted yesterday to advance an amended version of HB 1162 to the full Senate. Senator Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls) came back into the room and joined Senator Jim Bradford (D-27/Pine Ridge) to vote against the bill. But two Republicans who voted against the bill Monday, Dr. R. Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, switched and made the vote 5 to 2. Grrr.

There's no convincing the South Dakota Legislature that women ought to have access to a safe and legal medical procedure unfettered by legislative stigmatization and harassment. But among the offenses of HB 1162 is the expansion of South Dakota's violation of the First Amendment through compelled speech. HB 1162 forces doctors to add more state-driven statements to their medical exams, requiring doctors to interrogate women as to the sex of their fetuses, what those women have done to determine that sex, and when they did it.

Doctors don't need this information to carry out this medical procedure and protect the health of their patients. Doctors are being forced by the state to prolong their medical procedures, increase the stress patients experience in the examination room, and ultimately participate in deterring women from exercising their rights.

We still get two chances to beat HB 1162. The Senate will vote, then send it to conference to resolve the differences from the House version. Ladies, doctors, lady doctors, call your Senators, and tell them to back off.


South Dakota's anti-abortion legislation is bad enough. When it takes a racist turn, it's worse.

House Bill 1162 seeks to make it illegal to abort a fetus because of the fetus's sex. Like other abortion laws on South Dakota's books, the law insults women by declaring abortion a crime but refusing to recognize women's responsibility for committing that crime.

But the laws backers are going further and insulting a specific group of women: Asian-American women. During House debate on HB 1162, Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) argued that we need to ban sex-selective abortions to check the evil cultural tendencies of South Dakota's burgeoning immigrant population:

Speaking in favor of the bill, Stace Nelson, a Republican state representative running for the US Senate, hearkened back to his time living in Asia as a Marine. "Many of you know I spent 18 years in Asia," Nelson said. "And sadly, I can tell you that the rest of the world does not value the lives of women as much as I value the lives of my daughters" [Molly Redden, "GOP Lawmaker: We Need to Ban Sex-Selective Abortions Because of Asian Immigrants," Mother Jones, 2014.02.25].

Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), proud papa of HB 1162 prime sponsor Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), jumped on the evil-Asian bandwagon:

Don Haggar, another Republican state representative, warned that the values Nelson observed in Asia had already taken root in South Dakota. "Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was," Haggar said. "There are cultures that look at a sex-selection abortion as being culturally okay. And I will suggest to you that we are embracing individuals from some of those cultures in this country, or in this state. And I think that's a good thing that we invite them to come, but I think it's also important that we send a message that this is a state that values life, regardless of its sex" [Redden, 2014.02.25].

Shivana Jorawar of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum says this anti-Asian stereotyping has been going on in anti-abortion crusades for years. She testified yesterday before Senate Health and Human Services to ask South Dakota not to go down this racist path. She said South Dakota has seen its Asian population grow 70% in the last decade, and these new residents deserve better than legislation and legislators who stigmatize them with false stereotypes.

In an interview yesterday, Jorawar told me that there is no evidence to support the racist claims supporters are using to push HB 1162, or even that sex-selective abortions are happening in South Dakota. Jorawar says HB 1162 could cause doctors to engage in racial profiling: make sex-selection abortions a crime, fill doctors heads with false fears of anti-girl sentiment among Asian immigrants, and doctors may subject Asian women to greater scrutiny and interrogation when they come for gynecological exams. Such baseless suspicions could have a chilling effect on Asian immigrants' willingness to seek medical care.

Lena Tran, a USD student and one of 10,000 Asian-South Dakotans, told Senate Health and Human Services she is "horrified" her Legislature would go down this racist road. She asked Senate Health and Human Services not to subject people like her to more racial profiling. Senate Health and Human Services almost obliged: two conservative Republicans, Senators Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, joined the committee's lone Democrat, Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, in voting no. Three Republicans voted aye... but Senator Deb Soholt walked out before the vote, leaving the committee in stalemate.

When Senator Soholt returns to the committee room Wednesday, Senate HHS will have to consider the prospect of yet another abortion law provoking yet another lawsuit. Arizona banned abortions to select for sex or race last year. Jorawan's organization is working with the ACLU and NAACP to overturn that law with a discrimination lawsuit, saying it unfairly stigmatizes minority women. South Dakota's HB 1162 does not address race-selection in abortion, but Jorawan says the racist rhetoric already on the record in favor of HB 1162 demonstrates a legislative intent to discriminate that would support a civil rights lawsuit.

Senate Health and Human Services reconvenes Wednesday at 10 a.m.


House Bill 1180 is an anti-child, anti-woman, anti-knowledge bill masquerading under the guise of fairness. This bill, now just one vote away from heading to Governor Dennis Daugaard's desk, makes South Dakota's bad abortion restrictions even worse by prohibiting organizations that offer either abortion services or adoption services from offering the state's mandatory browbeating of women seeking abortions.

HB 1180's lead Senate sponsor, Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), says he's just trying to maintain a level playing field:

The roles of the pregnancy care centers are to counsel, educate and assist, according to Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, the bill’s lead Senate sponsor.

“One of my definitions of neutral is you’re not making money at it,” he said.

Some people in the adoption business sought to be centers, too.

“That is a conflict of interest,” Novstrup said.

Planned Parenthood makes money from abortions and adoption agencies make money from adoptions, he said [Bob Mercer, "New Rule Would Restrict Offerings of Adoption Services," Aberdeen American News, 2014.02.27].

Neutrality is the last thing Senator Novstrup and his abortion-obsessed colleagues want. They are trying to corral every woman in the state into the lying propaganda centers their 2011 abortion law authorizes to peddle their very specific, very ideological anti-abortion message.

If Senator Novstrup and the other sponsors of HB 1180 were really interested in helping women, they wouldn't oppress them with a 72-hour waiting period or patronize them with a requirement that they undergo counseling before would making a decision that Novstrup et al. think women are not capable of making on their own. Even we accepted the notion that all women considering an abortion are in such dire need of counseling that the state must force them into such counseling, a wise and fair Legislature would open the doors for experts of all sorts to help women obtain this required counseling.

Why not let the health care providers who know the most about abortion, the ones who actually perform abortions, explain to women what abortion involves?

Why not let dedicated professionals who know the most about adoption, the ones who make adoptions happen, share their knowledge and experience with women so they can get the best advice as to whether adoption is the right course for them to pursue?

Senator Novstrup professes fairness, but fairness would allow women to choose to get their information from the best, most experienced, most knowledgeable experts in the field of reproduction-related services. Senator Novstrup would rather use HB 1180 to block women from such expertise and force them into the clutches of a narrow group of know-nothing ideologues who will use the state's mandate to guilt and shame and lie all the women they can into conforming to their political goal of banning all abortions.

House Bill 1180 makes a bad law worse. If the Senate doesn't have the wisdom to vote it down, Governor Daugaard should recall his experience with the Children's Home Society, recall the good that adoption providers do for women and families and need, and veto this bill so women at least have a chance to get expert information from caring, experienced professionals who just want to help families do the right thing, not peddle a politico-religious agenda.


...and has to help kill an abortion ban.

Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey is having a tough week. He saw two measures he sponsored defeated in committee, and he had to help kill a third that he decided was too risky to support.

This morning, amidst hard, emotional testimony, the Sioux Falls Republican saw House Bill 1183, his effort to repeal South Dakota's death penalty, killed in committee on a 7–6 vote. Rep. Hickey has publicly documented his conversion on capital punishment, contending that the death penalty is bad policy on retribution, deterrence, safety, closure, and economics.

Democrat Bernie Hunhoff supported Hickey, saying, "I just don't think you can kill enough people to make [South Dakota] a better place." Three Republicans—Lust, Munsterman, and Conzet—voted with Hunhoff and Dems Parsley and Killer (yes, irony) to move HB 1183 to the House floor, but Democrat Peggy Gibson voted with the slim and uncomfortable majority of Republicans to bury Hickey's repeal.

This defeat comes on the heels of Wednesday's firmer rejection of Rep. Hickey's HB 1255, his proposal to rein in payday lenders. Rep. Hickey thought he'd tempered his anti-usury politics into a compromise palatable to the payday-lending industry. He thought he had a deal with an industry that was just glad to see him back away from a threat to bring a crushing payday-lending interest cap to a public vote. He was wrong; payday lenders lined up to cry out against these reasonable regulations. House State Affairs killed HB 1255 11–2.

Fine, says Rep. Hickey. That's the way the usury industry wants to play? It's back to the ballot:

...Hickey said he’s done negotiating.

“This is a bunch of games. These people expressly told me to put this stuff in the bill, and now they’re here opposing it,” Hickey said. “They should have been in here supporting the bill. But instead they’re going to face a rate cap” [David Montgomery, "S.D. Ballot Fight Vowed on High-Interest Payday Loans," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.02.19].

I won't tease you too hard, Steve, for trusting payday lenders. Just hand me that petition when it comes.

To top it off, Rep. Hickey now has to come home and explain to District 9 voters why he voted against an abortion restriction.

Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea) pitched House Bill 1240 to House Health and Human Services on Thursday. HB 1240 would have outlawed aborting fetuses with Down Syndrome. In the ongoing dishonesty of anti-abortion crusaders, Rep. Latterell asked that we punish the doctors who perform such abortions but not the women who approve and pay for what Latterell and his fellow campaigners blithely call murder and genocide.

Opposition had little to do with Down Syndrome and everything to do with women's rights and abortion in general. NARAL and others testified against HB 1240, saying that it was really an effort to drive another wedge between women and their legal right to bodily autonomy. An emotional Rep. Kathy Tyler, who described herself as a Catholic pro-life Democrat, said she'd never urge anyone to have an abortion, said HB 1240 was unenforceable and would only promote lying (women just wouldn't tell doctors their reason for having an abortion).

Rep. Hickey said he agrees with everything in HB 1240. He said there is nothing more despicable to him than abortion. He said the "callous buzzards" in the legal department at Planned Parenthood were secretly rooting for this bill so they could challenge it in court. He called NARAL and the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families "wicked." He said he worried there was a case that could undermine the whole complex legal battle he and fellow anti-abortion crusaders are waging in South Dakota to overturn Roe v. Wade.

House Health and Human Services split on a motion to pass the bill, 6–6. The committee then banished the bill to the 41st day on an 8–4 vote. Rep. Steve Hickey voted both times against HB 1240.

Hickey has his reasons, but now he must march the campaign trail with a vote against an abortion ban on his scorecard.

South Dakota will continue to kill prisoners. South Dakota will continue to countenance exploitative lending practices. South Dakota will see religious crusaders continue to wage a complex, multi-pronged, and uncompromising campaign against women's rights. It's been a tough week in Pierre for Steve Hickey and for South Dakota.


New Jersey lawyer Harold Cassidy has made a career of meddling in state legislatures, including South Dakota's, promoting restrictions on abortion that deny women their rights to privacy and bodily autonomy.

But he evidently hasn't made a good living at it. RH Reality Check reports that Cassidy and his wife have racked up millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and debts since the late 1980s. Cassidy tells RHRC that his finances are none of their business. Rep. Peggy Gibson (D-22/Huron) and Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls), two of the women into whose private business Cassidy eagerly pokes his the public nose, note the obvious irony:

Upon learning of Cassidy’s financial track record, South Dakota Rep. Peggy Gibson (D-Huron) called the attorney a “hypocrite.”

“He’s so financially irresponsible and yet he’s supposed to be this big ‘savior’ of women,” Gibson said. “He can’t manage his own affairs. Why would he be able to manage the affairs of South Dakota women, and their most private affairs—their health care and their reproductive decisions?”

State Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell (D-Sioux Falls) said it was “unfortunate” that Cassidy had such influence in the state.

“We, as a state, have bought everything that this guy has told us on how to shape policy, about how women should live their lives, when he could clearly use some advice on that front himself,” she said [Sharona Coutts, "Anti-Choice Lawyer Harold Cassidy Owed Millions in Taxes and Debts, Records Indicate," RH Reality Check, 2014.02.11].

Rep. Gibson concludes with today's money quote:

“He’s invasive of women’s private affairs, and then he says his affairs are private, when women have no right to privacy,” she said.

If you can't manage your own pocketbook, if you can't take responsibility for your own debts, don't presume to manage what women do with their bodies.


Mr. Ehrisman notes that Sanford Health is helping South Dakota women maintain access to safe, legal abortions... in North Dakota:

A Dakotas-based health care system has granted hospital-admitting privileges to doctors at North Dakota's sole abortion provider, which would bring the Fargo clinic into compliance with a new state law.

In a statement Thursday to The Associated Press, Sanford Health said physicians at the Red River Women's Clinic have been credentialed at its hospital in Fargo.

...Sanford's statement said its approval of admitting privileges is "based on objective criteria that is completely focused on protecting patients and providing safe patient care." The health system says the criteria "is applied in a neutral unbiased manner" [James MacPherson, "ND Abortion Docs Get Hospital Access," Associated Press, 2014.02.13].

Sanford Health reminds us that their complete focus on providing sage patient care does not include providing safe and legal abortion services:

A Sanford executive said in a statement that the decision follows a longstanding practice of “open privileges” at the hospital. Physicians, however, do not have privileges to perform routine abortions at Sanford.

“Sanford does not take a position on the issue and we do not perform abortion on demand,” Cindy Morrison, a Sanford executive vice president, said in the statement released Thursday [Patrick Springer, "Sanford Will Allow Abortion Clinic Doctors Admitting Privileges," WDAY News, 2014.02.14].

Not performing abortion on demand is taking a position on the issue. Refusing to offer that service forces women to seek this safe and legal procedure at smaller facilities that will not be as fully equipped to deal with medical complications that may arise from this procedure (as they can from any medical procedure) or to address other health problems that may present themselves when women come for reproductive advice and services.

If Sanford is serious about offering women comprehensive health protection, Sanford should take the logical step of allowing its doctors (the best in Fargo and Sioux Falls, I'm sure Sanford will tell you) to offer North and South Dakota women abortions on site.


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