Memo Leaked in South Dakota Anti-Abortion Measure

Amie Newman

While the anti-choice measure on the ballot in South Dakota claims it won't affect women with crisis pregnancies whose lives are in danger - or physicians and other providers involved - a leaked memo from a SD hospital concludes something very different.

According to Ms. Magazine’s Feminist Wire, a memo from Sanford Health was leaked the other day offering proof from hospital administrators that South Dakota’s abortion ban currently on the ballot (Measure 11) would be extremely dangerous for pregnant women and threatens physician’s ability to do their jobs optimally.

According to The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, the group working in opposition to Measure 11, a memo was crafted by the hospital’s legal team and distributed to employees this week and concluded:

“For those instances where a pregnant woman faces uncertain, but potentially very serious health risks, Initiated Measure 11 will require a physician to choose between possibly committing a felony or subjecting a pregnant woman to a higher degree of medical risk than what would otherwise be clinically desired."

The conclusion is all the more telling because, as the memo notes, this hospital has a policy to only perform abortions in cases where the fetus is not viable, has a fetal anomaly or the woman’s health is endangered – precisely the situations the group pushing the measure falsely claims the initiative would not affect.

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Sanford’s legal team notes that this initiative "imposes criminal liability upon any person involved in actually using an instrument, or prescribing or administering a drug, upon a pregnant woman with the intent of causing the termination of a pregnancy…this could include the pharmacist prescribing or nurse administering Cytotec (misoprostol), a drug utilized to induce labor and begin an induction."

Finally, Sanford Hospital’s legal team also noted concern for other, pregnancy related procedures such as amniocentesis which tests for fetal disorders. Amniocentesis and other tests are highly recommended by physicians in mothers with high risk pregnancies but because some of these tests carry the risk of causing a miscarriage, would these medical procedures be considered to play a role in a termination of a pregnancy? The memo concludes that while the ban includes an exception for "medical treatment", the ban does not define medical treatment and as such puts women and physicians in danger. 

You can read the memo here

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