South Dakota lawmakers OK creation of video explainer of state’s abortion laws

(OSV News) — South Dakota lawmakers Feb. 29 approved what proponents call a medical education bill that would direct the state’s Department of Health to create a video explaining the state’s abortion regulations for health care professionals and the general public.

Proponents of the bill say it would clarify exceptions to the state’s abortion ban and when doctors are permitted to intervene to save a pregnant woman’s life, but opponents argue such an effort isn’t sufficient to address confusion surrounding the ban.

South Dakota’s Senate approved the legislation in a 31-3 vote. It was previously passed by the state’s House in a 63-6 vote and will be sent to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem for her signature.

South Dakota bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother under a law that took effect in 2022 after the Supreme Court overturned its previous abortion precedent with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

Advocates of abortion bans enacted by states in the wake of Dobbs maintain they contain exceptions for circumstances where a woman’s life is in danger; opponents claim those exceptions are often unclear and medical providers’ delayed treatment puts women’s lives at risk. Some women in states with new abortion bans have reported they were denied treatment for life-threatening ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage, even though the states had exceptions covering those situations.

Kelsey Pritchard, state public affairs director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement that the “South Dakota Med Ed Bill is not political.”

“Pro-life or pro-choice, supporting this policy is the right thing to do,” Pritchard said. SBA Pro-life America praised the bill as “the first legislation of its kind.”

Samantha Chapman, advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said in a statement, “A video is not and should never be a substitute for a doctor’s medical education, experience and relationship with their patient.”

“But in South Dakota, the lives of pregnant people experiencing life- and health-threatening conditions are at risk while hospital lawyers attempt to interpret the law into what kind of medical care doctors can provide for them,” Chapman said, claiming the law “gives anti-abortion activists a guise to appear to care about pregnant patients while actually passing legislation that further enshrines anti-abortion cruelty.”

Pritchard countered, “We’re disappointed but not surprised that the ACLU wants to stop this bill that protects women’s lives.”

“The abortion lobby wants confusion over whether a pregnant woman can receive emergency care to persist as justification for their agenda of no limits on abortion,” she said. “Their dangerous lie is putting women at risk.”

A spokesperson for Noem’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but her administration testified in favor of the bill.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury told The Associated Press that her administration plans to make the proposed video and similar materials available on South Dakota’s pregnancy resource website “to make sure that we are offering peace and knowledge to moms, families and the general public and that they can access those resources as well.”

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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