SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A law banning telemedicine abortion in South Dakota takes effect Friday, July 1, further restricting abortion access in the state.
A bill from the 2022 legislative session prohibiting telemedicine abortions outside the care of a licensed physician was signed into law earlier this year by Governor Kristi Noem.
The law had been under litigation between Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who alleged that the then-proposed rule stating that a person would need to make three separate visits to a physician for access to the medication would be burdensome and medically unnecessary for patients. In February, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case stating that “Planned Parenthood has met its burden of establishing that the four factors for a preliminary injunction weigh in its favor.”
In an email to KELOLAND News on Friday, the ACLU said that they dismissed the case earlier this week “because of lack of jurisdiction/mootness due to the Dobbs decision.” The organization also filed a motion to dismiss their appeal for the same reason.
“Medication abortion is safe and should remain accessible to all South Dakotans without undue burdens imposed by politicians,” ACLU campaigns director Libby Skarin said. “We will continue to challenge efforts contrary to our right to make our own health care decisions. Let us all make clear that the right to decide when – and whether – to have a child belongs to us. Not the government.”
KELOLAND News has reached out to Governor Noem’s office to clarify whether this motion means the law can now fully take effect and be enforced.
The telemedicine abortion ban law makes it a Class 6 felony for any person to practice medicine without a license and prescribe medicine in order to induce a medical abortion. That part of the new law is immediately enforceable. Separately, the law also sets out a procedure for how the pills that set in motion a medical abortion are to be administered in order to protect the mother’s health. The state cannot make sure that procedure to protect the mother is followed – it is enjoined from doing so – until the pending litigation with ACLU/Planned Parenthood is resolved.Governor Noem’s office
“This law will have no effect on treatment for miscarriages, but doctors who knowingly break the law and prescribe these medications to end a human life will be prosecuted,” Noem said in a statement sent this morning.
Gov. Noem claims that medication abortions are four-times more likely to cause a woman to end up hospitalized. The data comes from a study from the Charlotte Lozier Institute that tracked the hospitalizations of Medicaid-eligible women who had chemical abortions within 30 days of being admitted.
“The reasons for the increasing rate of ER visits following mifepristone abortions are not readily apparent but may be influenced by mifepristone abortion providers who are unable or unskilled to handle complications after chemical abortions,” states the study in its findings.
The Food and Drug Administration found that between September 28, 2000 and December 31, 2018, only 24 deaths were reported out of 3.7 million women administered the drug.
Of the 24 deaths, two were homicides, two involved drug intoxication/overdose, eight were due to sepsis, two died of ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and the remaining deaths were attributed to suspected homicide, suicide, methane overdose, drug intoxication, unintentional overdose, delayed toxic shock syndrome and one undetermined death.
In a press briefing on Friday, leaders from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood national organizations discussed legal strategy in states across the country following the Roe decision. Largely absent from the discussion was South Dakota.
When asked whether the Center for Reproductive Rights had strategies in conservative states that might be considered “lost causes” in the fight to protect abortion access, Nancy Northrup with Center for Reproductive Rights mentioned Kansas, Montana, North Carolina and Florida. South Dakota was not mentioned as a place where the organization was currently looking to protect access.
On Thursday, an internal email from Planned Parenthood of Montana said that the clinics would no longer accept patients from out-of-state for medication abortions due the changing legal landscape.
During Friday’s press conference, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Alexix McGill Johnson said that many clinics across the country, including Montana, are not making these decisions lightly.
“Planned Parenthood providers are being forced to make very difficult operational decisions due to the rapidly shifting landscape,” McGill Johnson said. “To be clear: It’s unconscionable that providers are being forced to deny patients care.”
The decision out of Montana limits options for South Dakotans seeking abortion care in other states. The email specifically stated that a large number of patients seeking medication abortion care in Montana came from South Dakota.
Now, patients will have to travel to either Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota or Kansas. Protections in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas are legal at this time but could change based on lawmakers and courts in the state. Abortion access is protected in Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois.