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South Dakota lawmaker tells White House about potential 'grim' abortion policy

Democratic Representative Erin Healy sits at a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris and democratic lawmakers from other states where abortion is now illegal.
Democratic state Rep. Erin Healy sits at a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic lawmakers from other states where abortion is now illegal.

A state Democratic lawmaker is warning the White House about what reproductive health care could look like in South Dakota in the coming months.

Those comments came during a roundtable discussion in the wake of an executive order pledging to ensure some abortion access in states where the procedure is illegal.

South Dakota’s abortion law bans most abortions, even those caused by rape or incest. The only exception is to save the life of the pregnant mother.

Erin Healy
Erin Healy

Representative Erin Healy attended the roundtable. She told White House officials about potential abortion restriction proposals, like travel restrictions for pregnant people. She is anticipating such proposals from Republican legislators in South Dakota.

The Democrat from Sioux Falls says those proposals should be viewed as unconstitutional and unenforceable.

“South Dakotans should have the freedom to travel anywhere they want in this country, no questions asked," Healy says. "Enforcing some kind of state border law about who gets to leave and who doesn’t paints a very grim future for America.”

The day Roe v. Wade was overturned, Governor Kristi Noem and Republican legislative leaders announced they would call a special session to “save lives and help mothers.” No dates or specific policies have been announced.

President Joe Biden’s new executive order includes protections for mobile clinics near the borders of states that restrict abortion access. It also says the Biden administration will convene lawyers to offer support for people crossing state lines to get an abortion.

Vice President Kamala Harris says the executive order helps preserve an individual’s right to make intimate decisions about their health.

“To ensure the women are not impeded in terms of their right to interstate travel and that they will have access to the medication that they need, which, by the way, the FDA approved over 20 years ago,” Harris says.

South Dakota law also bans prescribing abortion-inducing drugs via telehealth appointment. Governor Kristi Noem's office says the president's executive order does not affect abortion policy in the state.

"South Dakota's trigger law and telemedicine abortion ban remain the law of the land," says the Governor's Office. "Governor Noem will continue her efforts to save lives and help mothers through whatever situation they may face."

The Biden administration is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to consider taking steps to protect the privacy of people who are looking for information about abortion services.

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.