South Dakota lawmakers approve protocols for Gov. Kristi Noem's telemedicine abortion ban

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  • Kristi Noem
    Kristi Noem
    American politician

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed a quotation to Sen. Wayne Steinhauer and misspelled Dr. Glenn Ridder's last name. The story has been updated to reflect the change.

Pregnant people in South Dakota seeking medical abortions will no longer be able to take the abortion pill at home.

On Thursday, six lawmakers on the legislature's interim rules review committee approved rules, brought forth by the Department of Health, to restrict the prescription of abortion-inducing chemicals to occur only at a licensed abortion facility.

The change is meant to "protect the women of South Dakota by maintaining the requirement that women receive these drugs in person by a licensed physician for the purpose of medical abortion," said the attorney representing the health department at the meeting.

The amendment comes three months after Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order on telemedicine abortions, which was finalized with a 4-2 vote at the committee meeting. The order was issued only a week after the Supreme Court refused to block Texas' 6-week abortion ban.

More: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem files appeal brief in Planned Parenthood v. Noem

The new abortion rule effectively bans other means of obtaining prescribed medications to terminate a pregnancy (i.e. courier, telemedicine or mail service, in schools or on state grounds). The two commonly used abortion medications are mifepristone, the first dose, and misoprostol, the second dose.

On Thursday, six lawmakers on the legislature's interim rules review committee approved rules, brought forth by the Department of Health, to restrict the prescription of abortion-inducing chemicals to occur only at a licensed abortion facility.
On Thursday, six lawmakers on the legislature's interim rules review committee approved rules, brought forth by the Department of Health, to restrict the prescription of abortion-inducing chemicals to occur only at a licensed abortion facility.

A pregnant person in South Dakota, prior to the change, had to make two visits to complete an abortion and wait 72 hours between both visits: an "informed consent visit" at a pregnancy consultation center and the abortion procedure itself.

With the new change, a pregnant person is required to wait an additional 72 hours before making a third visit to take the second dose in-person.

More: South Dakota has led the fight against abortion for years. It's about to take its next steps.

Dr. Sarah Traxler, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood North Central States (IA, NE, SD, ND, MN), argued misoprostol, a progesterone blocker, is widely available for other medical uses and can be safely dispensed in combination with mifepristone, a drug that expels pregnancy tissue.

"The rule would pile on one more medically unjustified restriction," Traxler said in her testimony against the change.

Proponents of the rule, like family physician Dr. Glenn Ridder, said the extra visit will allow medical professionals to account for unintended consequences or complications with a medical abortion.

"We want to know what's going on, so ethics would say that yes, we need to know where this woman's at and if she's undergoing something that she doesn't have control over," Ridder said.

The majority of the meeting was spent debating the nuances of state abortion laws.

"We shouldn't start going down that path of putting executive orders or language in executive orders into rules," said Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission, one of two who voted against the ban. "We are giving up our legislative authority when we do that."

Noem plans to work with the South Dakota legislature to pass legislation that makes these and other protocols permanent in the 2022 legislative session as way to protect the lives of women going forward and keep them out of emergency rooms, according to a press release from her office Thursday.

“I look forward to the day when the life of every unborn child is protected in South Dakota," Noem stated in her release. "Until then, South Dakotans will know that if a mother uses abortion pills to end her unborn child’s life, she will not get those pills from a stranger over the internet.”

Email human rights reporter Nicole Ki at nki@argusleader.com or follow on Twitter at @_nicoleki.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Lawmakers set rules for Gov. Kristi Noem's telemedicine abortion ban

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