Women seeking an abortion already have to make two time-consuming trips to the doctor’s office in Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Now Republican big government is forcing women seeking a less invasive form of abortion, via the abortion pill mifepristone, to make a third trip.
At the December 27 Rules Review Committee meeting, Senator Tim Johns (R-31/Lead) joined Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission) and Representative Ryan Cwach (D-18/Yankton) in blocking a rule change that would make it illegal for women to take mifepristone or its follow-up drug misoprostol anywhere but in a doctor’s office, under medical supervision. Senator Johns said at that hearing that he saw no evidence that such a restriction is medically necessary.
Someone must have bought Johns a couple drinks. At yesterday’s ad hoc Rules Review meeting, Johns grumbled but submitted to his party’s will to unscientific overregulation and misogyny:
Senator Tim Johns voted against approving the rule change in December, which stalled efforts. He voted in favor of the proposed rule this time.
“I’m troubled by it. I truly am troubled,” Johns says. “I’m highly reluctant to ever intervene when it comes to decisions when it comes to patients and doctors. I think we’re getting too close, anymore. I’ll let it go at that.”
Critics say the third visit is not medically necessary.
The change comes following an executive order by Governor Kristi Noem, which bans telemedicine abortions [Lee Strubinger, “Panel OKs Ban on Medical Abortions Outside Facilities,” SDPB Radio, 2022.01.06].
Johns is “troubled,” and he still hasn’t heard any evidence that this rule is medically necessary and the FDA says there is no such evidence, but he won’t resist his party’s encroachment on women’s autonomy… or the risk to women’s health that arises from forcing women to choose between an extra long trip to the hospital for helpful medication and another day missed from work:
Noem’s administration argued the extra visit is necessary to make sure women don’t have complications from the drug.
But doctors warned that making it harder for women to get the second drug is dangerous. Forgoing the second drug creates a greater risk of hemorrhage, according to the South Dakota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“How many women will be unable to comply, unable to return for the third time in about a week and decide they just have to take their chances and skip taking the second drug?” asked Nancy Turbak Berry, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, at the committee’s meeting last month. “How many emergency rooms and clinics in the outlying areas of our state are going to be faced with unnecessary medical emergencies?” [Stephen Groves, “South Dakota Makes It Harder for Women to Get Abortion Meds,” AP via PBS NewsHour, 2022.01.06]
This restriction on women’s right to take medicine at home comes even as the Department of Labor and Regulation seeks a mild liberalization of the definition of telehealth to allow health insurance to cover medical services provided remotely to South Dakotans in the comfort of their own home (see House Bill 1029). One step into the 21st century, one step back.