South Dakota Senate Committee endorses bill requiring in-person visit by women undergoing  chemical abortion

By Dave Andrusko

On Monday, the South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services committee voted to advance a bill to the full chamber that requires a woman undergoing a chemical abortion to obtain the abortion drugs in person. The measure has already passed the House.

“When Noem tried to implement a similar restriction through a state rule last year, Planned Parenthood, which operates the state’s only clinic that regularly provides abortion services, sued the state,” said the Associated Press’s Stephen Groves. “It argued the rule was an unconstitutional violation of abortion rights and would have made it practically impossible for the clinic to provide any medicine-induced abortions, “ he wrote. 

A sympathetic federal judge, Clinton appointee Judge Karen Schreier, granted a preliminary injunction, agreeing with Planned Parenthood that the rule “likely imposes an undue burden on Planned Parenthood and its patients’ right to seek an abortion.” She fully accepted Planned Parenthood’s argument that the additional rule requiring a third visit would effectively eliminate chemical abortions. Noem has appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the years since these drugs first became available, proponents have succeeded in loosening or even removing important safety regulations. “Now, following a recent change at the FDA under President Biden, abortion practitioners can send abortion drugs to women through the mail—with no in-person medical examination beforehand,” according to Paul Stark, Communications Director for MCCL. 

South Dakota Right to Life testified in favor of HB 1813.

“The abortion industry has no apparent problem putting women in harm’s way as they recklessly continue to distribute chemical or pharmaceutical pills meant to abort a unique, separate living human being,” said Dale Bartscher, Executive Director of South Dakota Right to Life. “Something must be done to ensure that women won’t be left alone; there must be accountability to protect their lives.”

Indeed, the deaths of at least twenty six women have been linked to the drug and at least 4,000 “adverse events.”

At a  February 10th  press conference, Gov. Noem answered reporters’ question, observing that Judge Schreier focused on access to abortion rather than women’s safety, the reason for the rule.

“It was interesting to hear her argument. It was more about making it an abortion issue, which clearly in this telemedicine abortion order that we put forward, it’s about women’s health. It is four times more likely a woman will end up in the emergency room from utilizing and accessing abortion through this manner,” she said, according to Bob Mercer of KELOLAND News.

“And,” Noem continued, “that is why we put it forward is to protect women’s health and make sure that they are medically supervised. The federal judge chose to make it about something else, and that’s disappointing. We will appeal.”

Gov. Noem continued, “In the instance of telemedicine abortions, someone can make a phone call, get online, order the drugs to be sent to their home. There is no medical supervision. That’s what makes it so dangerous. And that kind of access opens it up to our young women to be in their bathrooms or locker rooms alone undergoing this procedure with no doctor or physician … tied to the responsibility of what the consequences may be.”