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Federal Judge Blocks State Restrictions on Medication Abortions

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

A federal judge in South Dakota temporarily blocked a new measure by the state’s health department that curbs access to medication abortion. 

According to a report from Reuters, abortion provider Planned Parenthood sought an injuction against the measure that was part of an executive order issued in September by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, as Landon covered.


Noem’s Executive Order required that women seeking a medication abortion must have the medication provided by a physician licensed in South Dakota after an in-person examination. The order outlined that manufacturers, suppliers, and doctors will not be permitted to supply the medication, mifepristone and misoprostol, via mail, known as a “telemedicine” abortion.

“[U.S. District] Judge Karen Schreier wrote in her ruling that Planned Parenthood had shown that South Dakota had created a ‘substantial obstacle’ in the path of women seeking medication abortions.

Noem's executive order mandated that the two drugs used in mediation abortions both be administered by a medical provider. Typically, a woman would receive the first medication at a provider's office, and be handed the second drug at the same time, with instructions to take it 24 to 72 hours later.

Because Planned Parenthood's office in Sioux Falls is the only one that provides abortions in the state, and because many women travel long distances to reach its office, forcing them to make repeat visits could put an undue burden on many women, the judge wrote in her restraining order.”

Reuters noted that in December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permanently loosened restrictions surrounding telemedicine abortions. As Rebecca covered, women seeking a medication abortion can now obtain the drugs via mail without an in-person doctor’s visit. 


As Rebecca noted in her report, this method of abortion carries with it four times the complications of surgical abortions. 

“Some studies have found 10 percent of women face incomplete abortions at 9 weeks gestation. This can lead to death from infection if the remaining fetal parts or tissue are not properly removed,” Rebecca wrote. “Last month, as I covered, the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) authored a study that showed emergency room visits following this method went up by 507 percent from 2002 to 2015. Most of these ER visits, over 60 percent, were miscoded as spontaneous miscarriages.”

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