South Dakota restricts abortion pills, but remains embroiled in litigation – The Hill

The story at a glance

  • South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has signed a bill that will require women in her state to make three separate doctor visits to receive the two pills needed for a medical abortion.
  • The law rests on an earlier preliminary injunction that blocked Noem’s attempt to restrict abortion pills by decree.
  • Noem has appealed this injunction and in the meantime, South Dakota’s new abortion pill law remains unclear.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (right) signed a bill this week that makes it harder to get abortion pills, though key pieces of the legislation cannot be enacted because the state remains embroiled in a legal battle over access to abortion.

Signed Noah House Bill 1318 Wednesday, which will require women in South Dakota to make three separate visits to a doctor to receive the two pills needed for a medical abortion starting in July. The bill also bans medical abortions via telemedicine and increases the penalty for the unauthorized practice of medicine during a medical abortion.

Noem also signed a separate invoice, HB 1113making it a crime to force a woman to have an abortion.

Nationally, medical abortion accounted for 54% of abortions in the United States in 2020, according to Guttmacher Institute. Abortion pills are becoming a growing resource for women in the United States, accounting for only 6% of abortions in 2001 and rising to 24% in 2011.

The pills became available for women in the United States in 2000 and come as a combination of two drugs, known as mifepristone and misoprostol. The drugs are approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, with additional research showing that providing beyond 10 weeks is safe and effective.


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Noem has made abortion a key pillar of his administration, attempting to restrict access to abortion pills by executive action last year. This executive order would have required women seeking abortion pills to take both doses of the two-dose regimen in a doctor’s office – but that was blocked by federal judge.

This decision was made after Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota. filed a joint complaint against Noem and the South Dakota Department of Health.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided with Planned Parenthood – the only abortion provider in South Dakota – written in his opinion“the rule likely places an undue burden on Planned Parenthood and its patients’ right to seek an abortion.”

Although Noem may have legislatively enacted a similar version of his executive order, this preliminary injunction still prevents newly signed HB 1318 from taking full effect.

The text of the bill stated that the central sections of the law would require women to make three separate trips to a doctor to receive abortion drugs, “take effect on the date on which there is no longer any injunction preventing the application of the procedures detailed in sections 2 and 3, provided that no other appeal is pending or can be brought.

Noem has appealed Schreier’s decision and relies on the potential decision that could come from the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case will directly challenge the landmark 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade by challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks.

“I look forward to the day when all life (both born and unborn) will be protected by law. This litigation will help,” said Noem in a Tweet.

Currently, women in South Dakota must make two separate visits to a doctor, waiting 72 hours between appointments, before they can get abortions, including abortion pills.

Many states across the country are similarly trying to restrict abortions, such as the state of Texas that passed SB 8, known as the Fetal Heart Rate Act, which prohibits all abortions after detection of fetal heart activity. This usually happens around six weeks pregnant and before most women know they are pregnant.

Florida is trying to pass similar legislation which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, just like arizona.


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Posted on March 25, 2022

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