Planned Parenthood & ACLU sue to stop new South Dakota abortion rule

Containers of the medication used to end an early pregnancy sit on a table inside a Planned...
Containers of the medication used to end an early pregnancy sit on a table inside a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Fairview Heights, Ill. Women with unwanted pregnancies are increasingly considering getting abortion pills by mail. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 3:20 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging a new rule from the South Dakota Department of Health, created at the direction of Gov. Kristi Noem, that restricts access to abortion drugs in South Dakota.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota Legislature’s “Rules Review” Committee passed a measure that would require women seeking access to abortion pills to make three visits to their doctor, as opposed to two. It would require patients to wait a minimum of 24 hours before they can receive the second of two medications necessary for a medication abortion. Additionally, the new rules dictate that the procedure must take place within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

The rule is expected to go into effect on January 27.

According to a news release from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, the rule violates the standard of care that has been in place for more than 20 years and the recommendations of leading medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). South Dakota will be the only state to require three visits for a medication abortion, making it one of the strictest regulations on medication abortion in the country.

“I understand and recognize that not everyone supports abortion access. However, South Dakotans deserve to choose what is best for them and their families — and adding unnecessary barriers to health care just doesn’t make sense. The decision to have an abortion is deeply personal and should be left to patients and their doctors,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “We are hopeful the court will stop this rule from going into effect so that South Dakotans can choose for themselves when and how to access health care services, including abortion.”

South Dakota already forces patients to wait 72 hours before an abortion, mandates counseling, and bans medication abortion via telehealth.

“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.”

Planned Parenthood has been the only abortion provider in South Dakota for the past 20 years. The agency, along with the ACLU, say abortion, including medication abortion, is safe. The most common method of medication abortion, which Planned Parenthood provides in South Dakota, is a combination regimen of two oral medications: mifepristone and misoprostol.

“A person’s right to an abortion is a private medical decision, but it’s clear that the attacks on South Dakotans’ privacy are not letting up,” said Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of South Dakota legal director. “South Dakota’s restrictions on medication abortion needlessly block access to essential medical service in our state. The ability to decide whether to get an abortion is a fundamental right that should not be decided by state agencies or politicians. We all should have the power to shape our families, to access the health care we need, to decide when or whether we have children, and to control our lives.”

The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of South Dakota, and Michael Drysdale at Dorsey & Whitney on behalf of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) and their Medical Director, Dr. Sarah Traxler, MD.

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