South Dakota Governor Restricts Access to Abortion Drugs in Executive Order
South Dakota Governor Restricts Access to Abortion Drugs in Executive Order

By Mimi Nguyen Ly

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order on Tuesday to restrict telemedicine abortion and chemical abortions in the state.

The executive order (pdf) states that abortion drugs can only be prescribed and dispensed after an in-person consultation with a doctor licensed in South Dakota.

Under South Dakota law, doctors are already required to meet in person with a pregnant woman and carry out an examination before scheduling a surgical or chemical abortion.

Noem’s order was made in anticipation that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later this year will allow abortion drugs to be dispensed through the mail or virtual pharmacies.

Subsequently, the order blocks abortion-inducing drugs from being delivered through delivery services and telemedicine, and also prevents the drugs from being provided in schools or on state grounds.

In restricting chemical abortions, Noem’s order directs the state’s Department of Health to require licenses for abortion clinics that only prescribe abortion drugs. It also requires the department to collect data on how often chemical abortions are being carried out as a percentage of all abortions.

The department is also required to collect data on any related health complications that need a medical follow-up. The department is required to enhance reporting requirements on emergency room complications related to taking abortion-inducing drugs.

According to Noem’s office, the governor “plans to work with the South Dakota legislature to pass legislation that makes these and other protocols permanent in the 2022 legislative session.”

‘A Strong Pro-Life State’

President Joe Biden issued a statement on Thursday in response to a ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of a Texas law (pdf) that bans abortions if the fetus has a heartbeat, with the exception of a medical emergency.

Biden, a Democrat, said that he was seeking to launch a “whole-of-government effort” to respond, especially to “see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.”

Noem, a Republican, accused the Biden administration of moving to leverage telemedicine abortions to undermine state laws.

“The Biden Administration is continuing to overstep its authority and suppress legislatures that are standing up for the unborn to pass strong pro-life laws. They are working right now to make it easier to end the life of an unborn child via telemedicine abortion. That is not going to happen in South Dakota,” Noem said in a statement.

“I will continue working with the legislature and my Unborn Child Advocate to ensure that South Dakota remains a strong pro-life state.”

Janna Farley, the communications director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, told The Associated Press, “Having an abortion is a private medical decision, one that is protected under the U.S. Constitution, and it’s disappointing that Governor Noem continues to insert herself into the patient-doctor relationship,” adding, “It’s clear that the attacks on our abortion rights are not letting up in South Dakota.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, praised Noem for what she calls a “bold action that will save lives from dangerous chemical abortions, which have a fourfold higher rate of complications compared to surgical abortion.”

“The Biden administration would turn every post office and pharmacy into an abortion center if they had their way, leaving women alone and at risk of severe heavy bleeding, physical, emotional, and psychological stress, and more. States must take action. Governor Noem is setting a courageous model today that we hope more state leaders across the nation will soon follow,” Dannenfelser added.

Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, also praised the governor.

“I applaud Governor Noem’s action today to stop dangerous chemical abortion drugs from being mailed to South Dakota women,” she said in a statement. “This is no longer about ‘a woman and her doctor,’ but a woman—or girl—and a stranger on the internet. States can no longer depend on the FDA to regulate abortion drugs in any meaningful way, and I am pleased to see Gov. Noem step up for her state. Abortion is never safe, but it’s far more dangerous when women are abandoned by physicians and left to manage their complications alone.”

South Dakota law currently also requires that a pregnant woman must wait 72 hours before the abortion procedure. Pregnant women seeking to undergo an abortion after the 12th week of pregnancy are required to have the procedure performed in a hospital. Abortions are outlawed after the 22nd week of pregnancy, with the exception of medical emergencies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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