PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — In the wake of the Dobbs decision, reproductive health advocates feared that access to contraception could be lost next.
The right to access to contraception was enshrined in Griswold v. Connecticut almost 60 years ago and, like Roe v. Wade, it has been considered a long-held right by reproductive justice advocates. But in Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion in the Dobbs decision, he listed the landmark case as one that should be revisited.
That’s why Democratic Representative Erin Healy introduced House Concurrent Resolution 6005 to affirm the right to contraceptives.
“I was hearing that women were scared,” Healy told KELOLAND News Thursday. “They were telling me when I was running for re-election, when I was knocking on their doors, when I was out and about in Sioux Falls; I received so many emails and phone calls from across the state of people who are worried about it. I even heard it a few times at church.”
During Wednesday’s House State Affairs committee meeting, Healy and a number of proponents spoke of the need for the resolution.
American Civil Liberties Union advocacy manager Samantha Chapman was one of the proponents that spoke in support of the resolution. Chapman told KELOLAND News that like Healy, the ACLU is hearing from concerned South Dakotans about their access to birth control.
“We stand to lose a lot and what we needed to see is our legislature firmly supporting just the very most basic reproductive health care for women and they failed to do that,” Chapman said Thursday.
Chapman said that between the failure of HCR 6005 in the House State Affairs Committee and the advancement of HB 1080, a bill that would prohibit certain kinds of care for transgender youth, the legislature is inserting itself into the exam room and the relationship between patients and physicians.
Less focus on reproductive health in Pierre
The 2022 legislative session saw several bills concerning reproductive health and abortion access but this year only three bills and one resolution regarding reproductive health have been introduced. Chapman said that the South Dakota legislature tends to follow national trends with legislation and while abortion was the focus of legislatures across the country pre-Roe, now the focus has shifted to anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Healy said that it seems like there isn’t an “appetite” to discuss these issues this year.
“I think it’s because did overturn Roe v. Wade so all of the laws that have gone into effect are there,” Healy said.
This week, one of the two pieces of legislation focusing on abortion was tabled by the bill’s sponsor after pushback on the language. HB 1169 would have expanded the definition of “the life of the mother” in South Dakota’s abortion ban to include serious risk of death or irreparable harm to one or more body parts. Republican Representative Taylor Rehfeldt tearfully spoke of the importance of clarifying the language to protect women in South Dakota but chose to table the bill until next year when she’ll introduce a similar bill.
Healy said that the tabling of HB 1169 shows how much of a stronghold anti-abortion organizations have on the legislature.
“We can’t even bring a bill to save women who are in dire situations,” Healy said. “Is that truly pro-life? Because it’s not in my book.”
South Dakota Right to Life was present at Tuesday’s hearing on HB 1169 but declined to comment on the bill.
Addressing the period tax
One of the other pieces of legislation relating to reproductive health is House Bill 1159, also brought by Representative Healy. The bill would exempt feminine hygiene products from being taxed.
“If lawmakers can acknowledge that menstrual products are actually necessary items, then I think that we’re one step closer to ensuring that it’s not because of lack of resources to manage menstruation that is keeping people away from their full potential or keeping people in poverty,” Healy said.
Chapman, who attended a legislative cracker barrel in Sioux Falls over the weekend, said she was disappointed by the lawmakers’ responses to the proposed legislation.
“I think it’s very telling when you have a panel of seven legislators and they are all men and everyone feels uncomfortable speaking about this, which they shouldn’t because they make policy every day or they’re working to make policy that do affect our bodies in various ways,” Chapman said.
Healy’s bill is currently on its way to the House Committee on Appropriations without recommendation. She said that between $1 million and $3.6 million of revenue to the state would be lost.
“We all want our taxes to make sense and we all want our taxes to be fair,” Healy said. “But this isn’t because only by your gender do you get taxed and it’s not a choice. It’s an inescapable part of everyday life.”