The Right to Decide When and Whether to Start a Family Belongs to Us

Banning abortion care won’t stop South Dakotans from needing, and seeking, abortion care.

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For far too long, lawmakers have been working overtime to destroy access to abortion -- state by state, law by law. Now, with the draft opinion leaked earlier this month, it looks like the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and our constitutional right to an abortion.

It’s important to remember that this leaked opinion is still just a draft. Abortion remains legal across the nation – and it remains legal here in South Dakota for now.

Still, this leak confirms our deepest fears that the Supreme Court is ready to take away our ability to control if, when, and how to have a child. And it is deeply painful to all of us who believe that the right to control our own bodies and to make such deeply personal medical decisions is ours, not the government’s.

If Roe is overturned, abortion will become a criminal act in South Dakota, thanks to a trigger law that’s been on the books since 2005. That means people would have to travel out of state to get essential care – which is something that’s impossible for many people to do. Coordinating travel, time off work, child care, and lodging will push abortion care out of reach for many and will disproportionately harm the same people who have always faced systemic barriers to care — Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community, undocumented immigrants, young people, those living in rural communities, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes.

All people who can get pregnant need the ability to make decisions about their lives and bodies, to access abortion care when they need it, in the way that works best for them, and with the guidance and support of providers they trust. The ability to obtain abortion care is fundamental to a person’s independence, freedom, equality, autonomy and economic security. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will and forced to endure the life-altering consequences of being denied essential health care.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would be an unprecedented action. Never before has the Supreme Court deprived half the country of a constitutional right. The Court has, on occasion, overturned precedents in the past, but virtually always to expand rights and protections – not to take them away.

It’s beyond time for South Dakota to recognize that abortion care is essential health care. It is our right to shape our families, to access the health care we need, to decide when or whether or how we have children, and how we shape our lives. Banning abortion care won’t stop South Dakotans from needing, and seeking, abortion care. It just ensures that the most vulnerable South Dakotans have a much more difficult and costly experience accessing it – and it will force people to seek abortion care outside of the health care system. When someone decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, accessible, and free from punishment or judgment.

This is a terrifying time for all people who can get pregnant, and all people who love us. It’s been a hard few weeks since the leaked opinion. It’s been a perpetually hard time for the amazing people on the ground in this state who have been fighting tooth and nail to preserve abortion rights for years.

We have to take every opportunity we can to be there for one another, support each other in this fight because this work can take a toll on people.

Whatever happens when the Court actually issues a decision, we must never give up. Everyone can fight back. We need to use every tool in our tool box to fight for one another and our right to abortion: Take to the streets to have your voices heard, contact your elected representatives, flood the newspapers with letters to the editor, if you are safe to – talk about your abortion story, talk to the people around you about why you support abortion.

Get involved in local abortion activism

Support your local abortion movement, donate and get involved abortion funds, health centers, and reproductive justice organizations. Organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Justice Empowerment Network, South Dakota’s chapter of the National Organization for Women, Uniting Resilience, South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, the ACLU of South Dakota, and more.

And then vote. Vote like your rights depend on it – because they do!

If abortion is going to be left up to the political process, then we have to make all of these actions a practice - we need to show up today, and we need to show up tomorrow, and the next day and the next. We need to be in this for the long haul. We must keep going and we must do so in solidarity with all communities who are continuously subject to these attempts to violate our right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.

Let’s make it clear that no person should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will. The right to decide when – and whether – we have a child belongs to us. Not the government.

Remain informed and engaged for the fight ahead.