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South Dakota Governor Claims She’ll Ban Abortion Pills Without Punishing Women


WASHINGTON (AP) — South Dakota’s Republican governor pledged on Sunday to bar mail-order abortion pills but said women shouldn’t face prosecution for in search of them.

In apparent defiance of legal guidance by the Justice Department after the Supreme Court last week stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, Kristi Noem indicated in national television interviews that she would put in place a plan approved by state lawmakers to limit the pills. The bulk ruling Friday by the court’s conservative justices triggered abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere.

But Noem said doctors, not their patients, would likely be prosecuted for knowing violations of what could be certainly one of the strictest laws on abortion pills in america.

“I don’t consider women should ever be prosecuted,” she said. “I don’t consider there must be any punishment for ladies, ever, which might be in a crisis situation or have an unplanned pregnancy.”

At issue is mail-order or so-called telemedicine abortion pills, which have been on the rise within the country since 2000 when the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone — the important drug utilized in medication abortions.

Greater than 90% of abortions happen in the primary 13 weeks of pregnancy, and greater than half at the moment are done with pills, not surgery, based on data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Abortion pills are expected to turn out to be in higher demand as over half the states are more likely to move to ban abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Noem, a powerful opponent of abortion rights who faces reelection in November and is mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential contender, solid the distribution of abortion pills as unsafe and has called a special session to craft recent laws.

“These are very dangerous medical procedures,” said Noem, referring to abortion pills. “We don’t consider it must be available, since it is a dangerous situation for those individuals without being medically supervised by a physician.”

In a state where Republicans hold super-majorities in each statehouse chambers, South Dakota lawmakers have been floating proposals that also would make it tougher for ladies to hunt an abortion out of state. South Dakota voters rejected outright bans in 2006 and 2008, and abortion rights advocates are preparing for an analogous referendum on abortion access.

In a press release Friday, President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, said the Justice Department will protect abortion providers and people in search of abortions in states where it’s legal and can “work with other arms of the federal government that seek to make use of their lawful authorities to guard and preserve access to reproductive care.”

“Particularly, the FDA has approved using the medication mifepristone,” he added. “States may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”

The South Dakota law, passed in March, requires women in search of an abortion to make three separate trips to a health care provider with the intention to take abortion pills and makes it clear that ladies within the state cannot get the pills through a telemedicine consultation. The law has been on hold after a federal judge in February ruled it likely “imposes an undue burden on an individual’s right to hunt an abortion.”

Two drugs are required. The primary, mifepristone, blocks a hormone needed to take care of a pregnancy. A second drug, misoprostol, taken one to 2 days later, empties the uterus. Each drugs can be found as generics and are also used to treat other conditions.

The FDA last 12 months lifted a long-standing requirement that ladies pick up abortion pills in person. Federal regulations now also allow mail delivery nationwide. Even so, roughly 19 states have passed laws requiring a medical clinician to be physically present when abortion pills are administered to a patient.

South Dakota is amongst them, joining several states, including Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma, where Republicans have moved to further restrict access to abortion pills in recent months.

One portion of the South Dakota law, which can take effect in July, comprises a bit that doesn’t hinge on the federal courts: increasing to a felony the punishment for anyone who prescribes medication for an abortion and not using a license from the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.

A broader court decision is pending within the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Noem spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Associated Press author Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, contributed to this report.

For AP’s full coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, go to https://apnews.com/hub/abortion

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