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Federal judge blocks South Dakota’s medical abortion order

The governor previously pledged to make South Dakota have the “strongest pro-life laws on the books.”

(CN) — A federal judge granted Planned Parenthood’s request Wednesday for a temporary restraining order to block Governor Kristi Noem’s new medical abortion rule which was about to go into effect on Thursday.

The order required that women receive both mifepristone and misoprostol, the two drugs used in medically induced abortions, in person at a facility rather than the previous rule which consisted of a single visit to the facility to be prescribed the drugs.  

Planned Parenthood claims that multiple visits are overly restrictive and creates new barriers for women seeking access to abortion services.

The American Civil Liberties Union joined Planned Parenthood in its complaint and alleges that the South Dakota Department of Health, under Noem’s direction, illegally created rules that require patients to wait 24 hours to receive their second dose of a medication that induces abortions.

The ACLU also claims that the governor’s order creates a situation in which patients must make three separate visits to licensed medical providers and argues that those barriers are more restrictive.

Planned Parenthood only offers abortion services twice a week and requires the assistance of doctors who fly in from out of state. 

“Planned Parenthood has demonstrated that the rule ‘likely’ imposes an undue burden on a person’s right to seek an abortion in South Dakota,” wrote U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in her ruling. “The balance of the harms is in Planned Parenthood’s favor.” 

Judge Schreier concluded that Planned Parenthood and its patients will face irreparable harm if the temporary restraining order is not granted.

“We are relieved that South Dakotans’ access to medication abortion remains unchanged for right now,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Central States.

The governor previously pledged via Twitter to make South Dakota have the “strongest pro-life laws on the books.”

Noem’s office offered a press release during the March for Life on Jan. 21, just days before the current order was blocked. In that release, the governor’s office announced that they will be pushing forward with more pro-life legislation in the form of two new bills. 

The first will ban abortions once a child’s heartbeat can be detected. An early draft of the bill titled "Prohibiting Abortion After Detection of Fetal Heartbeat" bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is found, except for in cases of medical emergencies. The second, paralleling the governor’s recent order, will ban drug induced abortions in South Dakota. 

“Every human life is unique and beautiful from the moment it is conceived. Every life is worthy of our protection, worthy of the right to live,” the governor’s office said in a March for Life press release. “We hope that this year’s March for Life will be the last and that the Supreme Court will finally protect every unborn life. But until that comes to pass, these bills will ensure that both unborn children and their mothers are protected in South Dakota.”

Governor Noem’s office did not immediately respond for comment regarding the temporary injunction.

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