Today, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging a new rule from the South Dakota Department of Health, created at the direction of Gov. Kristi Noem, that would place yet another medically unnecessary and burdensome restriction on abortion access in South Dakota. The rule would require patients to have to wait a minimum of 24 hours before they can receive the second of two medications necessary for a medication abortion. This would mean patients would have to visit a health center three separate times to have their abortion.
As the lawsuit explains, the Rule violates the standard of care that has been in place for more than 20 years and the recommendations of leading medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). South Dakota will be the only state to require three visits for a medication abortion, making it one of the strictest regulations on medication abortion in the country.
“I understand and recognize that not everyone supports abortion access. However, South Dakotans deserve to choose what is best for them and their families — and adding unnecessary barriers to health care just doesn’t make sense. The decision to have an abortion is deeply personal and should be left to patients and their doctors,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “We are hopeful the court will stop this rule from going into effect so that South Dakotans can choose for themselves when and how to access health care services, including abortion.”
South Dakota already forces patients to wait an unnecessary 72 hours before an abortion, not including weekends and holidays, mandates state-biased counseling, and bans medication abortion via telehealth which has been proven safe and effective. Medication abortion is extremely safe and common and a standard method of terminating an early pregnancy. It is preferred by some patients because it allows patients to have more control over their abortion and more privacy. Planned Parenthood has been the only abortion provider in South Dakota for the past 20 years.
Abortion restrictions disproportionately hurt those who already have the hardest time accessing quality health care — people with low-income, Black, Latino and Indigenous communities, people in rural communities, and patients suffering from intimate partner violence. An additional visit, on top of the already laborious two visits required by law, would delay care and potentially prevent some patients from receiving the care they need altogether.
“South Dakotans already must contend with costly and medically unnecessary hurdles in obtaining abortion care. With the state's new rule, patients will now need to manage travel, time off work, and child care to make not two, but three visits to a health center to get time-sensitive health care, all while navigating existing state restrictions on abortion access," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The regulations on medication abortion pose a significant burden to patients and will inevitably cause harm — especially for Black and Brown communities, who already face systemic barriers to accessing care. The State's callous new rule is egregious, and Planned Parenthood will fight for our patients and providers in court."
Politicians and state agencies should not insert themselves into the doctor-patient relationship.
“A person’s right to an abortion is a private medical decision, but it’s clear that the attacks on South Dakotans’ privacy are not letting up,” said Stephanie Amiotte, ACLU of South Dakota legal director. “South Dakota’s restrictions on medication abortion needlessly block access to essential medical service in our state. The ability to decide whether to get an abortion is a fundamental right that should not be decided by state agencies or politicians. We all should have the power to shape our families, to access the health care we need, to decide when or whether we have children, and to control our lives.”
Abortion, including medication abortion, is and continues to be extremely safe. The most common method of medication abortion, which Planned Parenthood provides in South Dakota, is a combination regimen of two oral medications: mifepristone and misoprostol.
Since mifepristone was first approved by the FDA in 2000, more than 4 million patients in the United States have relied on the mifepristone–misoprostol regimen to safely end their pregnancies. In 2020, approximately 40 percent of abortions in South Dakota were medication abortions.
The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of South Dakota, and Michael Drysdale at Dorsey & Whitney on behalf of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) and their Medical Director, Dr. Sarah Traxler, MD.
About Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood North Central States and its subsidiary organizations provide, promote, and protect reproductive and sexual health through high quality care, education and advocacy. A member of America’s most trusted reproductive health care provider, our affiliate is proud to support and operate 30 health centers across our five-state region (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota). Each year, we provide health care to nearly 115,000 people and health education to more than 55,000 people in our region.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.