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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Friday that she has reversed her initial plan to call a special legislative session this year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
When the Supreme Court’s decision first leaked in May, Noem tweeted that she would “immediately call for a special session to save lives” if Roe was overturned. South Dakota already had a trigger law that immediately banned abortions after the ruling came out in June.
Noem, who has since shown caution in the evolving landscape of abortion politics, is among prominent Republican governors across the country who are navigating an issue that threatens to divide the party while giving Democrats a potential election-year boost.
“In the last few weeks, it has become clear that South Dakota is the most pro-life state in the nation,” Noem said in a statement, pointing to a ban that allows a woman to have an abortion only if it will save her life, as well as a website she launched that directs pregnant women to state resources.
Noem said she has the support of top lawmakers, as well as influential anti-abortion groups, in holding off legislative action until next year.
For abortion rights advocates, the governor's announcement provided little comfort as they strategized how to restore access to the procedure in South Dakota.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said it would turn its attention to the November election and would closely follow the 2023 legislative session.
“Politicians who do not believe in protecting the civil rights and liberties of their constituents have no business in governors’ mansions, in state attorneys general’s offices or in state legislatures,” Libby Skarin, the ACLU's campaign director, said in a statement.
One group of contrarian Republican lawmakers, which recently organized themselves as the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, was critical of Noem's change of plans. Earlier Friday, the caucus chairman, Republican Rep. Aaron Aylward, had said an immediate special session was necessary "to close the loopholes” in South Dakota's abortion ban.