FFRF condemns South Dakota’s new abortion restriction

Unfortunately, access to abortion medication just became more difficult in South Dakota, following approval yesterday of a bill creating stumbling blocks for medication abortion.
South Dakota lawmakers on Jan. 6 approved ultraconservative Gov. Kristi Noem’s rule that requires women to return to their doctor to receive the second of two drugs for medication abortion. Patients will be required to take the second pill in a physician’s office. Typically, both pills are given in one visit and the second drug is taken at home. 

Noem is fiercely anti-abortion, claiming that “God created each of us and endowed all of us with the right to life.” 

This harmful rule exacerbates existing barriers to abortion care in the state. Women already must wait 72 hours after their initial abortion consultation to receive abortion medication. This new rule adding a third appointment causes additional delay and requires unnecessary travel, time off from work, hotel costs and childcare. The procedure isn’t covered by public health insurance. And since South Dakota only has one abortion clinic, women seeking an abortion face a nearly impossible task of receiving timely care. 

Noem’s rule is counter to science. According to the South Dakota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is dangerous to make it harder for women to obtain the second pill because it increases the risk of hemorrhages. Nancy Turbak Berry, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, noted that denying easy access to essential medication may increase emergency room visits. 

This decision is also counter to last month’s action by the Food and Drug Administration to permit prescriptions for medication abortion pills via telemedicine, and permanently remove a requirement that those seeking abortion pills must pick them up in person. Abortion medication is extremely safe, with complications resulting in less than a quarter of one percent. There is no scientific reason to deny access to such medication. 

The only reason to restrict and ban abortion is religion, the Freedom From Religion Foundation contends. 

Today Noem filed an appeal brief before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Planned Parenthood v. Noem, involving a state law requiring an abortion consultation with a “pregnancy help center” 72 hours before an abortion procedure. She and the state are represented by Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. Sekulow headed President Trump’s defense team during impeachment hearings.

A federal court had enjoined the law. Most crisis pregnancy centers are run by Christian groups, fronting as legitimate clinics, but using scare tactics and misinformation to discourage abortion.

“Religion has no place in the legislative decisions in a secular country, but especially in health care decisions,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “Gov. Noem’s actions to restrict abortion are abhorrent attacks on reproductive rights.” 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1978, represents more than 35,000 nonreligious members nationally and works as a state/church watchdog to uphold the separation of state and church.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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