South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, in an interview with CBS News, continued Tuesday to pressure her possible rivals in the 2024 Republican presidential race on abortion, arguing that her state's ban on abortion is a model for the Republican Party and encouraging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others to take further action in their states.
When asked whether she would "nudge" DeSantis to do more to restrict abortion in Florida, Noem replied, "I would nudge every governor to do what they can to back up their pro-life record. I think that talking about situations and making statements is incredibly important, but also taking action and governing and bringing policies that protect life are even more important because that's what truly will save lives."
Noem's comments come days after one of her top aides, Ian Fury, criticized DeSantis for "hiding" behind Florida's 15-week abortion ban, which DeSantis signed into law last year.
In South Dakota, abortion is completely banned with an exception if the pregnant woman's life is endangered, with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The state's so-called "trigger law" prohibiting abortion went into effect last year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling on abortion rights.
DeSantis has said he is "willing to sign great life legislation" when asked if he would support a six-week abortion ban during Florida's coming legislative session.
"That's what I've always said I would do," DeSantis said last month.
Noem's advocacy for stricter abortion laws elsewhere comes as top Republicans are navigating the issue in the wake of the party's scattered results in the 2022 midterm elections and in the run-up to the GOP's 2024 presidential primary race, where winning over socially conservative voters is widely seen as critical to winning the nomination.
When asked about Fury's critique of DeSantis and if the Florida governor's support for a 15-week ban goes far enough, Noem did not take on DeSantis directly but touted her own "aggressive" record.
"A lot of people talk and say a lot of things to grab headlines and make broad statements," Noem said. "I prefer to take action and to do things that actually protect life. So, I know that many states have different laws. I'm proud of South Dakota and how aggressive we've been to make sure that we are protecting each and every single life that is precious and that we continue to lead by example."
Noem added, "I would certainly hope that other states would take the action that South Dakota has."
When asked if she agreed with Fury's characterization of DeSantis as "hiding" behind a 15-week ban, Noem said, "I believe that every leader now today has the opportunity to stand for every single life. And I'm proud that in South Dakota we have done exactly that."
In March 2022, Noem signed a bill to prohibit abortion-related telemedicine, and it punishes doctors who prescribe medications for abortion online or over the phone. However, she said she wouldn't go a step further and pursue legislation that would create legal consequences for abortion patients. Under South Dakota law, abortion providers may face criminal or financial penalties, but women who receive abortions are not punished.
"There'll always be, during legislative session, other proposals that may come forward. But right now, I think that where our trigger law stands is what the people of this state support and want to see be in place," she said.
CBS News has reached out to DeSantis' office for comment on Noem's and Fury's remarks.
Other potential Republican candidates for 2024 have advocated for further efforts to restrict abortion. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed a 15-week ban in the commonwealth, and former Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News this month he would "support any pro-life legislation that Congress would take up."
While former President Donald Trump has touted his appointment of the three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, he has also argued that abortion could be a politically complicated issue for Republicans. This week, Trump said evangelical leaders did not do enough to rally GOP voters in 2022.
"A lot of them didn't fight or weren't really around to fight. And it energized the Democrats," Trump said Monday on "Real America's Voice."
Noem is a longtime Trump ally and former House member who raised just under $20 million in 2022 across the various committees for her re-election campaign, a state record. She won her reelection by about 27 points, another state record.
She has not ruled out a run for president in 2024 but told CBS News that at this moment she is "not convinced that I need to run for president."
"I want the very best individual that is the strongest decision maker, that loves America, to be the person that can lead us into the future," she said.
"I think that as we go through the coming months and even the next year, year and a half, that leader will emerge," she said.
Noem says she doesn't feel rushed "at all" to make the decision on a 2024 run and that politicians should be focused "on governing rather than going out and making big broad statements and going out and taking action for their own political futures."
Asked if she'd be visiting nearby Iowa in the next couple months, Noem said "that will be happening" due to an upcoming farm bill that will affect the two states.
And while she has a "friendly relationship" with the former president, she has not spoken to Trump "in quite a long time." She also flatly denied a report by The Daily Beast story that Trump allies have given her Trump's blessings to take on DeSantis.
"That is not true. We did not have a conversation about any of that," she said.
Grace Kazarian and Fin Gomez contributed.
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