Picking nits, pulling apart


“See me on the path on your way home
Might need a mattress to sleep on
But if I’m going to dawn would it be wrong?
Will you be there for me?”
“Unity” - for KING & COUNTRY

Joel and Luke Smallbone were born in Australia, but moved to the United States with their sister, who is known professionally as Rebecca St. James, and family to support Rebecca’s career in the early 1990s. The brothers created the group for KING & COUNTRY when signed by Warner Music Group in 2009.

“Unity” is part of the group’s fifth studio album “What Are We Waiting For?” that was released in 2022, but in a bit of foresight, the song was written in 2019 with Tony Williams, who is well known as writing verses for his cousin, Kanye West, before the racial reckoning of 2020.

The brothers were enthralled in the process of forming and recording the song.

Luke told Billboard in a 2022 interview, “Rather than focusing on the things that separate us, what if we focus on the things that unite us?”

Quotes from multiple people who have been referenced as “experts” or have had a vote in social topics recently have shown just how prevalent the tendency to head toward division truly is.

A resolution supported by nearly every person with a “-R” behind their name in Pierre (including all three District 22 legislators) passed the House State Affairs committee last Wednesday, the general House on Monday and referred to Senate committee on Tuesday. The resolution opposes an initiated measure to place the right to an abortion into the South Dakota constitution.

Let’s get this straight to open the discussion. Neither I nor anyone who would identify themselves as pro-choice wants to see abortions happen. There are a whole host of things that could help with that goal (and have been shown to have an impact in other countries) as far as funding true sex education programs, putting appropriate weight of child costs on both parents and making contraceptives affordable and easily accessible, but for some reason those ideas that could prevent the unwanted pregnancy in the first place aren’t tried in this country and state…but that’s another column.

Multiple legislators were willing to step to the microphone and voice to their constituents why they supported the resolution. I was waiting for the reason I could see to support such a statement to come out - that codifying access to abortion would be best done as a true initiated measure and not something to put into the state’s constitution.

No, instead legislator after legislator came out with the same exact rhetoric.

“The proposed amendment is dangerous legislation.” (But no real reason why it’s dangerous.)

“My vote was to protect life and specifically the future of our state.” (Yet, the day before the resolution was heard in House committee, a Senate committee voted to push a bill requiring active efforts from the Department of Social Services to reunite Native American children with parents and/or family - something that is sadly not done nearly as well as it should be, specifically for Native children - to the 41st day…I guess it was the wrong “kind” of life to protect).

And the one that rang out like nails across a chalkboard:

“The proposed legislation would allow for an abortion to happen until the day of birth for the child!”

Oh, the ignorance.

In 2022, when Roe vs. Wade was repealed, South Dakota had a “trigger law” regarding abortion that went into affect. That law is considered one of the most restrictive in the country, only allowing an abortion in the case of saving the life of the mother.

When can that mother’s life be saved? The first trimester? Through the second trimester?

Nope, the current law on the books that pro-life folks want to say protects late-term abortions allows an abortion that saves the mother’s life to take place right up until the birth of the fetus.

So…that argument about late-term abortions? Complete BS.

Now, what does the proposed amendment allow for?

According to Rick Weiland of Dakotans for Health, the organization that has gathered twice the required number of signatures for the proposed amendment, the first trimester is left to the decision of the pregnant woman in the proposed amendment. The legislature/state could regulate abortion based on physical health of the pregnant woman in the second trimester.

The third trimester would allow for state regulation all the way up to preserving the life of the pregnant woman, which would still be a reason that an abortion could happen, in the third trimester.

So, the entire third trimester would be exactly what is currently on the books. No additional late-term abortions. Huh.

I think the constitutional amendment is the wrong way to do this, personally, but the legislature only has itself to blame for constituents not trusting the state legislature to follow the will of the people on an initiated measure.

According to polling done by KELO, the Argus Leader, and multiple other places since 2022, South Dakotans range from 62-70% in favor of allowing abortion in the first trimester. Of course, the numbers drop to 53-59% in favor of abortion throughout the second trimester.

However, South Dakotans have seen initiated measures passed by a super majority of the general public in the last decade, which were then taken apart and even dismissed in Pierre. And legislators are curious why a constitutional amendment is the way the populace wants to go?

Around two-thirds of voters support the right to choice in the first trimester.

Perhaps rather than focusing on dividing the state by making the conversation about the third trimester, a more honest and real conversation could be had in discussing what unites two-thirds of the state?

Then again, that would require listening to constituents over party, and the vote on this resolution has shown few willing to do that.