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SD Legislature’s Rules Review committee approves Noem’s abortion restrictions

The Rules Review committee signed off on an executive order by Governor Kristi Noem restricting access to abortion medication in the state.
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:11 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota state legislature’s “Rules Review” Committee voted 3 to 2 in favor of more stringent rules around access to abortion medication.

The committee passed a measure which would require women seeking access to abortion pills to make three visits to their doctor, as opposed to two. Additionally, the new rules dictate that the procedure must take place within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Under the rule, women must return to a doctor to receive the second of two drugs used to carry out a medication abortion. Prior to the rule change, women undergoing medical abortions could take the second of the two doses at home.

Those who testified against the rule changed argued it added unnecessary burdens to the process of getting an abortion.

“Currently, when a patient comes to our clinic in Sioux Falls and says they would like to have a medication abortion, we discuss with them all of their options,” explained Dr. Sarah Traxler, Planned Parenthood’s North Central States Chief Medical Officer. “We assess their decision and their certainty. We screen them for pressure and coercion, and during the first and second visit, make sure they are confident in their decision to have an abortion.”

Two South Dakota healthcare professionals testified in-person in favor of the rule change, Dr. Michael Fiegen, retired, and Dr. Glenn Ridder of Sioux Falls.

“I think to limit the number of visits for these women, based on some suggestion of inconvenience, is really missing the medical point,” Fiegen argued.

The measure was approved after initially being put on pause by the committee last month. Senator Tim Johns (R-Lead) indicated during that December hearing that he would like to see more proof that the third visit was in fact “medically necessary.”

The committee’s two Democrats, Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission) and Rep. Ryan Cwach (D-Yankton), argued that the rule change should come in the form of a bill, and be decided by the legislative process.

Ultimately, Johns reluctantly voted in favor of the rule change, allowing it to pass by it’s margin of one.

“I am troubled by it, I truly am troubled,” Johns said. “I am highly reluctant to intervene when it comes to decisions between patients and doctors and I think we are getting too close nowadays.”

Governor Kristi Noem signed the executive order calling for the change in September. Noem’s order came just a few months after the FDA changed the rules to allow women seeking the medication to do so with only a virtual visit, largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Chemical abortions are four times as likely to cause a woman getting an abortion to end up in an emergency room – and we have a duty to protect the lives of those women,” Noem said in a release following the committee’s decision. “I look forward to the day when the life of every unborn child is protected in South Dakota. 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.”

The rule revision does not need any further legislative approval. It only needs to be filed with the Secretary of State’s office, then it becomes law.

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