The following is a transcript of an interview with Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristin Noem that aired Sunday, June 26, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: South Dakota is one of 13 states with so called trigger laws that locked new abortion restrictions into place after Roe vs. Wade was overturned. Republican Kristi Noem is the governor of that state and has a new memoir out titled, “Not My First Rodeo: Lessons from the Heartland.” She joins us this morning from Capitol Lake, South Dakota. Good morning to you, Governor.
SOUTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR KRISTI NOEM: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me on. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m hoping you can clarify some things because I know under South Dakota law, abortions are now criminal acts. Only exceptions, if it’s necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant female. You’re calling a special session. What exactly do you want to change or implement here?
GOV. NOEM: Well, what happened with the Supreme Court decision this week is that abortions in the state of South Dakota immediately became illegal unless it was to save the life of a mother. And so that was in place as soon as that decision was made. And what I believe will happen is that if we do go into a special session that there’ll be debate around how we can support these mothers, I’ve already launched a website that’s called life.sd.gov. And it’s to get resources to individuals who have an unplanned pregnancy. Or if they’re in a crisis situation that will coordinate financial assistance, people that will come alongside them during this time. Also make sure that they get health care and access that they may need. It lists all the nonprofits, different organizations that worked with them, and then also can extend to families that may want to adopt their baby should they choose to give their baby up for adoption. So it’s an incredible resource that does more to support these women that are in a situation that was unplanned and really does leave them in a situation where they’re not prepared for the news that they have that they’re expecting a baby.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, on that though America has the worst maternal mortality rate of any developed country. What specifically are you doing for these women who not just when they have the baby, but during their pregnancy? Are you giving them paid leave? Are you giving them more health care rights in your state? Are you giving them more state funding? What exactly are you doing to keep them alive during their pregnancy?
GOV. NOEM: You know, I think that will be a lot of the debate that will go on now in every different state. Now that the Supreme Court has made this decision. The power to make these decisions really goes to each individual state. We’ve already talked about that in South Dakota. What’s the state’s role in this and what can we do to help these individuals that are in these situations, get them the health care that they need to to help their baby be born healthy and help them be parents or help them choose a loving family to raise that child–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re still figuring out how specific, okay.
GOV. NOEM: –well, and you know, this trigger law was put into place years ago and it was to go into it- into law as soon as the Supreme Court made a decision such as it did–
MARGARET BRENNAN: okay.
GOV. NOEM: –so that’s the debate and discussion that we’re having, but I think what’s incredible and what’s going on is that the people will decide, you know, elected officials at the State level is who they’ll be talking to to decide what their state’s laws look like. South Dakota’s, obviously, you know, under our past several years and have stood for life and defending life. And I think we’ll continue to have those debates on how we can support these mothers and what it means to really make sure that we’re not prosecuting mothers ever in a situation like this when it comes to abortion, that it will always be focused towards those doctors who knowingly break the law to perform abortions in our state.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So there’s a lot of confusion here. So South Dakota is one of 30 states that will limit access to telemedicine abortions, which allow patients to receive these pills in the mail that would allow them to end their pregnancy. The president has said he’s going to use the Justice Department to intervene here if there’s an attempt to stop women from receiving these pills. Are you prepared for that kind of legal battle? Are you actually going to seize mail? How would you stop women from actually receiving this federally approved medication?
GOV. NOEM: Well, we’ve already addressed this and in many ways in the state of South Dakota, I brought a bill that would ban telemedicine abortions, which means a doctor of the internet or over the phone could prescribe an abortion for an individual because these are very dangerous medical procedures, a woman is five times more likely to end up in an emergency room if they’re utilizing this kind of–
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is an FDA approved drug.
GOV. NOEM: –method for an abortion. So, it’s something that should be under the supervisi- supervision of a medical doctor and it is something in South Dakota that we’ve made sure happens that way–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, that’s what I’m asking you for specifics of because–
GOV. NOEM: – at the state level
MARGARET BRENNAN: –because at the state level–
GOV. NOEM: and that’s the debate–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but what is happening here is incredibly important and precedent setting. This is a federally approved drug. Are you saying the state of South Dakota is now going to overrule the FDA and decide which drugs are going to be available to its residents?
GOV. NOEM: And many of those decisions are made at the state level, they absolutely are. That’s what states do–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you stop- if it’s sent in the mail will you intercede and stop it from being received?
GOV. NOEM: –and, you know there’s- it’s certain rights that are protected- there are certain protections that are guarded under the Constitution of the United States. The rest of these items are left to the states, the 10th amendment guarantees us that. What the Supreme Court said was that the Constitution does not give a woman the right to have an abortion. That means that in each state they will make the decision how they handle these situations.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly and that’s–
GOV. NOEM: –and in South Dakota we’ve already had a bill passed that set on telemedicine abortions, that we don’t believe it should be available, because it is a dangerous situation for those individuals without being medically supervised by a physician.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so it sounds like you’re ready to fight the Justice Department on that one. Let me ask you about something else the President said. He said that his administration will oppose any state governments that try to block the mail, search a person’s medicine cabinet or control a woman’s actions by tracking data on apps that she uses. Is South Dakota going to do that kind of surveillance or adopt laws like Oklahoma and Texas have, which incentivize civilians to report on their neighbors?
GOV. NOEM: Margaret, that’s never been the conversation in South Dakota and I don’t anticipate that we will ever do that. We take privacy rights very important. We-we are protect our freedoms and our liberties here. We will make sure that mothers have the resources, protection and medical care that they need and we’re being aggressive on that. And we’ll also make sure that the federal government only does its job. We saw in unprecedented ways that this administration has been overstepping its authority and they’ve been punishing the American people. And we’ve seen increased energy costs, supply chain challenges, freedoms taken away. I- It’s been incredible the amount of problems this country has happened because of the discussion and the debate and the policies out of the Biden administration. My job as governor is to do my job and that’s protect my people from these bad policies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So how are you going to handle corporations operating in your state that say they will provide health care and financial support to employees who travel out of state for abortions? You’re gonna go after those companies or go after those individuals?
GOV. NOEM: No, Margaret, I don’t know if you’re paying attention to really the debate that’s going on in South Dakota. Those aren’t the conversations we’re having–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you won’t sue Walmart, for example, or Amazon who operate in your state and said that they will do that for their employees? Walmart and Amazon will not face litigation from the state of South Dakota?
GOV. NOEM: – the people in South Dakota really recognize- we’re going to continue to support these mothers, make sure that they are protected from any kind of prosecution that would happen. Make sure that these babies are recognized and that every single life is precious, and that we enforce our laws and I’ll continue to make sure that the people of our state and all they can speak to their elected representatives that will make those decisions closer to home than what we’re seeing at the federal level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so I think you were saying you’re not going to go after corporations there. Let me just ask you here what a fellow–
GOV. NOEM: No intention to do that Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. A fellow Republican, Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina was on this program a few weeks ago and I want to play something she said because she says she is antiabortion rights, but she has an exception for rape and incest. Listen to her.
NANCY MACE SOT: I’m a rape victim myself. And when you realize what’s happened in your life, the trauma, the emotional, the mental, the physical trauma in a woman’s life, that decision- she should make that decision with her doctor and between her and her God.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to her? Are you open to exceptions for rape and incest?
GOV. NOEM: I think it’s tragic what Nancy went through and my heart goes out to every single woman who’s had to go through that situation. I don’t know what that’s like. What I would say is that I believe every life is precious. Our trigger law does reflect that if it’s to save the life of a mother that an abortion is still illegal. And we know so much more using technology and science than we did even 10, 15 years ago about what these babies go through the pain that they feel in the womb, and will continue to make sure that those lives are protected. And I just have never believed that- that having a tragedy or tragic situation happened to someone is a reason to have another tragedy occur–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So no exception for rape or incest?
GOV. NOEM: –so I would prefer that we continue to make sure we go forward and that we’re putting resources in front of these women and walking alongside them, getting them the health care, the care, the mental health counseling and services that they should need to make sure that we can continue to support them and build stronger families far into the future as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So no exceptions?
GOV. NOEM: You know, this is a debate that’s going to continue to happen from state to state Margaret, and I think that’s what’s unique about the United States of America. I love that about this country, is that we have a very limited federal government. The Supreme Court did its job: it fixed a wrong decision it made many years ago and returned this power back to the States, which is how the Constitution and our Founders intended it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
GOV. NOEM: So the fear tactics I hear coming out of so many people from so many pundits and those in the media, scaring women saying that they’re going to have a big- bigger risk of death–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor–
GOV. NOEM: –because of this decision. What this is going to do is give them the ability to weigh in with their local elected officials–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly.
GOV. NOEM: –to make sure their state statutes reflect what they need to have their health care and their options and their babies protected and supported into the future.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exactly Governor, which is why we asked you here today to try to clarify that and we’ll track it as you figure them out. We’ll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation stay with us.