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Noem signs bill to create video explainer of South Dakota abortion laws

S.D. Gov. Kristi Noem signs into law HB 1224 March 18, 2024, legislation proponents call a medical education bill that directs South Dakota's Department of Health to create a video explaining the state's abortion regulations for health care professionals and the general public. (OSV News photo/ courtesy Office of the Governor)

(OSV News) — Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., signed into law legislation proponents call a medical education bill that directs South Dakota’s Department of Health to create a video explaining the state’s abortion regulations for health care professionals and the general public.

Proponents of House Bill 1224 say it clarifies exceptions to the state’s abortion ban and when doctors are permitted to intervene to save a pregnant woman’s life; opponents argue the bill isn’t sufficient to address confusion surrounding the ban.

Noem’s office said March 18 that she signed into law that day HB 1224 among 10 bills intended to “take care of people.”

“This year, we did a fantastic job of keeping our focus on people, not government programs. The primary role of state government should always be to care for the people,” Noem said in a statement. “These bills ensure the people of South Dakota are safe, healthy, and secure.”

South Dakota’s Senate previously approved the legislation in a 31-3 vote, after the state’s House passed it in a 63-6 vote.

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 restrictions enacted by states in the wake of the Dobbs decision say those laws contain exceptions for circumstances where a woman’s life is in danger; while opponents argue those exceptions are often unclear and medical providers’ delayed treatment can endanger women’s lives. Some women in states with new abortion bans have reported they were denied treatment for life-threatening ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage, even though their states’ laws had exceptions covering those situations.

OSV News reached out to the South Dakota Catholic Conference for comment on the new law, but did not receive an immediate response.

“We thank Gov. Noem for making South Dakota the first state to protect women’s lives with a Med Ed law,” Kelsey Pritchard, state public affairs director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement March 25.

“Regardless of political affiliation or whether someone is pro-life or pro-choice, South Dakotans of all philosophies can celebrate that moms will be better protected through direct education to our doctors on their ability to exercise reasonable medical judgment in all situations,” Pritchard said.

When state legislators approved the bill earlier in March, 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.” Chapman argued 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.”

But Pritchard added in her statement, “Though every state with a pro-life law allows pregnant women to receive emergency care, the abortion industry has sown confusion on this fact to justify their position of abortion without limits. With many in the media refusing to fact-check this obvious lie, other states should look to South Dakota in combatting dangerous abortion misinformation.”

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News.

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