SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota—A campaign stop for Gov. Christie Noem was called off Tuesday after two women took issue with the state’s extreme ban on nearly all abortions.
Within minutes of arriving for an appearance at a mock golf facility in Sioux Falls, the state’s top Republican bailed when pressed by the women about their personal abortion stories — and the dangerous new reality afterward Roe v. Wade.
Leah Bothamley of Spearfish and Tiffany Campbell of Sioux Falls approached the skipper as he prepared to enter Golf Addiction, where a “Food Truck Tuesday” event was being offered.
Bothamley, 41, and Campbell, 46, support abortion rights and disagree with Noem’s support for banning most abortions in South Dakota. The measure went into effect immediately after the US Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned Roe on June 24. Several states have had such “trigger laws,” while others have moved to enact bans on the procedure in the weeks since the ruling, which overturned decades of constitutional precedent defining the right to abortion.
Bothamley said she was told Noem would be at Golf Addiction, so she decided to travel across the state to talk to her.
It was a chance to get into “good trouble,” Bothamley told The Daily Beast, citing the late Georgia congressman John Lewis.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Davis
He arrived at Golf Addiction and had been there for about an hour when he saw Noem appear as part of a motorcade, Bothamley recalled.
“It was hard to tell it was her. I’ve never seen her in person, and she was kind of shy about it,” Bothamley said.
Bothamley called her name and approached Noem, then said: “I want my rights back,” which she said she repeated about five times.
She was also upset that Noem had called the infamous case of a 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped and sought an abortion across state lines in Indiana a “tragic situation,” even though she had doubled down on her opposition to abortion in such a case. .
Bothamley said she felt Noem was playing “political theatre” with a very real and dangerous situation. He repeatedly shouted, “Put my rights back on the ballot,” on Tuesday.
Bothamley has a 13-year-old son, but said she had the abortion because of a medical condition: both of her legs have a form of paralysis that prevents her from feeling anything in her lower limbs. She recalled becoming pregnant despite using birth control and then having a successful abortion.
Pregnancies can be very dangerous for women as they get older, Bothamley noted, including an increased risk of stroke. This is one reason he supports a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
For her part, Campbell said she went up, shook hands with the governor and engaged in a brief dialogue, asking a technical question about the state’s abortion law. She has her own history of miscarriages, having had one to terminate a pregnancy on Sept. 20, 2006. Campbell said she was pregnant with twins and was told she couldn’t carry both to term, as NPR reported in 2008.
She performed a radiofrequency endometrial ablation, aborting one of the embryos. Campbell said such a procedure would not be allowed under the new abortion law. Noem disagreed, Campbell said, suggesting that such procedures be allowed.
The South Dakota law, passed in 2005, says the only exception is in the case of an “appropriate and reasonable medical judgment” that “an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.” Most nationwide bans include some apparent exceptions.
But the reality so far after Roe America is that doctors and other providers often operate in fear, unclear about if and when they can safely perform the procedure, putting women’s health at risk along the way.
Campbell’s interpretation of the largely untested law is that it allows abortions only if the mother’s health is at risk. That wasn’t the case for her, she said. But after her abortion, she was able to give birth to a son who is now a healthy 15-year-old. the other fetus was terminated by the procedure, although she carried it to term.
“I said, ‘There’s no exception in cases of multiples,'” Campbell said of her interaction with Noem. This is hard to hear in both videos.
Campbell is no newbie to politics, nor is she new to controversy. He said he has been arrested four times in Washington, three times while protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 Supreme Court nomination and once during a transgender rights protest.
He said he has asked Noem to introduce a bill during the 2023 legislative session to allow such exceptions to the law. Campbell said Noem responded that she does not bring bills or supporting bills, which Campbell, who worked as a lobbyist in Pierre, said are not accurate.
Gov. Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, told the Daily Beast that Noem listened to Campbell, “set some facts straight” and then told her “let’s have this discussion this legislative session.” He said Noem tried to make it clear that she never supports a bill “before seeing the specific language” of the bill.
“He then proceeded to interact with other South Dakotans,” Fury said.
Noem’s fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Larry Roden, was also in attendance but did not speak to the women, though at one point he raised his hand to indicate that someone, apparently Bothamly, should be quiet. Denied.
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Campbell was direct in her brief exchange with the first-term Republican governor, who is running for a second term in the deep red state. However, abortion has sparked several debates and some strong protests this year.
“I said, ‘I think women should make their own medical decisions, and I’m sorry you don’t,'” she said. “And then he kind of looked at me, gave me a nasty look. I said, “If you think I shouldn’t make my own medical decisions, you don’t respect me as a person.” And that’s when it really took off.”
Campbell said she waited too long to speak with the governor — whom she described as unapproachable to voters. Noem has campaigned by making brief stops around the state, but has not held many large rallies or town halls, and declined a debate with her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls, to be produced by Southern Public Television. Dakota. They will participate in a single debate in Rapid City on September 30.
“My intention was not to be aggressive. I was very calm with her,” Campbell said. “I didn’t raise my voice until he started walking away from me. And then he lied. Which was just frustrating to me that he would blatantly lie to my face.
“I was just horrified by her lying behavior,” Campbell said. “She couldn’t defend her anti-choice stance in cases like mine, so she had to run away.”
Noem’s representative told the Daily Beast that this was a rare occurrence.
“Governor Noem has had thousands of fantastic interactions with South Dakotans in every corner of the state and met with hundreds of people in Sioux Falls yesterday,” Furey said.
Campbell also said she wonders how Noem, who has not ruled out running for national office, could handle the pressure of such a campaign if she walked away from a South Dakota couple who were questioning her.
Photo by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Courtesy of Leah Bothamley and Tiffany Campbell
Golf Addiction’s owners said they were unhappy with the altercations, posting a message on Facebook saying they were sorry Governor Noem walked away without joining the business after being “bombarded … with an aggressive attitude.”
They said Noem chose to walk away rather than allow protesters to take over what was meant to be a family event, and suggested the real news here was that a governor was being harassed by voters.
“Tonight’s action by the protesters did only the following. Show our children how to hate, show our community how to divide and take away others’ rights to free speech,” the post said. “To receive messages tonight from family, friends and customers letting us know they really wish they had the opportunity to meet Governor Noem but didn’t, is disappointing. We all had that right. A 6-year-old going home upset and in tears because she didn’t get to talk to her Governor about horses, that night shouldn’t have happened.”
But at least one of their customers joined the protest.
Elizabeth Davis of Sioux Falls was at Golf Addiction with her husband Mitch Bartlett and their child when they saw the confrontation. Davis, who said she is “very pro-choice,” stopped by and captured some of it on video.
“I felt it was important to hear what Kristi’s response was, what she was answering Tiffany’s questions,” he told the Daily Beast. “So I wanted to keep it rolling.”
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