Democratic Leadership Column: Republicans Ignore Sexual Abuse Victims


February 18, 2024

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba

Hello from week six of the 2024 Legislative session. The last few days have seen a lot of discussion over abortion, drag shows, deepfakes and protecting victims of sexual abuse.

Wednesday, I brought a bill to start a conversation about South Dakota’s abortion laws. My legislation would have created an individual right to an abortion. Over the last 50 years, South Dakota has created 45 pages of laws concerning abortions, many of which are infringements on women’s rights to bodily autonomy. Dr. Amy Kelley, who is an OBGYN at Sanford Health, spoke in support of my bill. She has delivered hundreds of babies over the years, but she also spoke about the heartbreaking decisions if a pregnancy has to be terminated to protect the mother’s life. Right now, South Dakota abortion laws are unworkable. We are putting doctors in positions where they can’t use their own morals and expertise to decide when a mother is too sick to continue a pregnancy. The supermajority of Republicans have shown no interest in fixing this. In fact, the House and Senate passed a resolution this week opposing a possible ballot measure to make abortion legal in South Dakota. We should not be telling people how to vote on this issue. In fact, it is illegal for the state or anyone in office to use state resources to oppose or support a ballot measure.

I also want to offer my apologies to what happened to Rep. Kadyn Wittman on Monday as she brought her bill to protect victims of “stealthing.” Her legislation would have created a path in civil court for victims of non-consensual condom removal. After Rep. Wittman gave her opening remarks on the bill, a Republican colleague “called the question” to prevent debate. The legislation failed along party lines. Rep. Wittman said a victim of stealthing who ended up getting pregnant was listening to the House floor. That bill deserved a robust debate. I just want to remind my colleagues that there is a broader audience than just the people in the House or Senate Chambers who are listening. How we treat each other and our constituents matters. Rep. Wittman and victims of sexual abuse deserved to be treated better than that. It seemed to me that this was meant to insult and disrespect Rep. Wittman. The Representative making that motion should apologize to Rep. Wittman.

I do want to highlight some of the successes the Democratic caucus had this week. After making an amendment, the Senate passed Sen. Liz Larson’s bill to protect our elections from deepfakes. SB 96 now heads to House State Affairs. Democrats stood with Sen. Shawn Bordeaux against a deeply problematic lithium mining bill. We stand with environmental groups about protecting the Black Hills. Our fear was that this poorly written piece of tax legislation was going to do more to legitimize an under-regulated mining process than to protect our Black Hills. I’m also grateful to Sen. Red Dawn Foster who has been working hard in Appropriations to make sure your tax dollars are being spent wisely, especially during the revenue setting process that ended this week.

Democrats are continuing to stand up for workers, education, women, and good government everyday here in Pierre. This coming week will likely be a long one as we reach crossover day. Thank you for keeping up with the legislature this year.

Thank you,

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba District 15

Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister

Week six of the legislative session saw a lot of bills dealing with social issues including “obscene live conduct” and abortion; all of which garnered floor speeches for the Republican party to grandstand on.

We had to listen to what amounted to a history lesson about Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves that had some thing to do with, what I do not know and never did figure out, abortion.

While we had to listen to others talk about abortion and the graphics of it, when Rep. Kadyn Wittman tried to pass legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse, Republicans allowed one of their members to cut off debate with no ramifications. In my eight years being a representative, I have never witnessed anything so disrespectful on the House floor in the State of South Dakota.

This disregard for quorum and professionalism and not holding themselves to a higher standard is another reason why the Republican party has gotten out of control. They seem to think that no matter what happens, there’s enough of them to give them cover and not have any responsibility for their actions

When is enough, enough? While Rep. Wittman has received apologies from several Republicans, there has been no accountability for what happened. That makes me sad to realize that this has possibly become the normal in South Dakota.

With the amount of bills coming towards crossover week, these types of distractions keep us some really getting work done for the people of South Dakota.

Thank you,

Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister (District 28A)

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |