Jan 27, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge halts South Dakota Gov. Noem's abortion pill order

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking at a summit in Iowa in July 2021.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaking at a summit in Iowa in July 2021. Photo: Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily halted a South Dakota executive order from taking effect that would have placed new restrictions on abortion medications.

Why it matters: U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier granted Planned Parenthood's request for a suspension against Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's order, saying it “imposes an undue burden on a person’s right to seek an abortion.”

Noem's order, which was issued in September and later approved by the state's Department of Health, would have prevented people from accessing the medications through telemedicine appointments by requiring the pills to be taken at abortion provider facility.

  • It would have also required facility staff to inform the person receiving the abortion that it is possible to stop the process from occurring after the medicine was administered.
  • Noem said she issued the order because "we have a duty to protect the lives of those women" and that she looked "forward to the day when the life of every unborn child is protected in South Dakota."
  • Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers argue that requiring a person to visit a clinic for three separate appointments to access the medicine constituted an undue burden on their right to seek an abortion.

What they're saying: "At this stage, Planned Parenthood has shown that the personal, financial, and logistical obstacles involved in traveling to the clinic for three separate appointments at regulated time intervals amounts to a substantial obstacle for a person seeking a medication abortion," Schreier wrote.

The big picture: The U.S. is experiencing a wider push among Republican-controlled states to restrict access to abortion medications and the procedure.

What's next: A court hearing for Planned Parenthood's preliminary injunction against Noem's order has been scheduled for Feb. 1.

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