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Committee delays vote on changes to medical abortions


A legislative committee is gridlocked on Department of Health law changes preventing medication abortions except at licensed abortion facilities.

The rule change comes after an executive order from Gov. Kristi Noem earlier this year.

The state health department wants anyone undergoing a medication abortions to return to the facility 14 days after taking the second round of medication.

The goal of the follow up appointment is to ensure the medical procedure is complete. Some legislators aren't sure a third appointment is necessary.

Sen. Tim Johns, R-Lead, is one of them.

"I haven't heard any testimony that would support a conclusion on my part that there's a medical necessity for it," Johns says. "Or any reason why it should be done at that second meeting other than what has been speculated to."

The Rule Review Committee is an oversight committee — it approves rules proposed by the executive branch. Those rules come from new laws passed by the legislature.

This proposed rule stems from an executive order from Gov. Noem restricting medication abortions.

Some voiced concerns about the executive branch crafting laws based on its own executive order.

Rep. Jon Hansen, R- Dell Rapids, says the Department of Health has the authority in this instance.

"The notion that we're codifying an executive order absent legislative involvement—that's just not true because 34-23A-51 exists," Hanson says. "It's a demand on the department to establish the exact rules that are in this exact rule. They're well within their authority."

The Rules Review Committee failed to pass the law change. It will take up the proposal again on January 6th.

In 2020, about40 percent of abortions in South Dakota were induced by medication.

There is only one abortion clinic in the state.

The FDA has relaxed restrictions that require a pregnant person to pick up abortion pills in person.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.