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Abortion ‘Reversal’ Misinformation Is South Dakota Policy, Thanks to GOP

Michelle D. Anderson

“Our state is among the most difficult states in the nation for women to access abortion care .... With an overabundance of barriers and hoops to jump through, abortion has become nearly impossible to access for many women,” University of South Dakota senior Kerstin Tuttle wrote about the anti-choice measure just signed into law.

People seeking medication abortion care in South Dakota will be given misinformation about how to “reverse” the procedure after the state’s Republican governor signed a bill into law mandating that doctors dispense inaccurate information promoted by anti-choice groups.

The measure, HB 1157, requires doctors to provide pregnant people with “additional information” about medication abortion as part of the state’s so-called informed consent process.

The required information includes a statement, one not based on medical evidence, that a pregnant person can discontinue a mifepristone-induced abortion by not taking the misoprostol with which it is typically prescribed. The law requires the state’s health department website to disseminate information about the so-called reversal process.

Both mifepristone and misoprostol appear on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.

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South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) signed the bill into law on March 29, amending the state’s abortion care regulations.

Rep. Leslie Heinemann (R-Flandreau), vice chair of the house Health and Human Services Committee, introduced the anti-choice measure in January. Heinemann, a dentist by trade, argued that it was lawmakers’ responsibility to give South Dakota citizens the opportunity to stop the abortion process if they changed their minds, according to an Associated Press report.

The concept of “abortion reversal” is based on a 2012 paper published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. The paper claimed that medication abortions were reversed among four of six women included in the study. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which represents 58,000 OB-GYNs and women’s health-care professionals, has questioned the veracity of the study and charged that public policy should not be based on the 2012 paper.

As part of the so-called informed consent law that was approved in 2005, South Dakota requires physicians to obtain informed written consent of the pregnant person before an abortion can be performed.

The consent process requires doctors to relay disclosures to people seeking abortion care, including more than 20 statements ranging from medical risks to contentions that the aborted fetus represents “the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

A federal appeals court in 2012 upheld South Dakota’s “informed consent” law, which includes required disclosures that people seeking abortion care may face increased risk of depression and suicide ideation.

Overwhelming research and evidence shows that there is no link between receiving abortion care and experiencing depression or suicide. A 2011 literature review published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges charged that it was “unwanted pregnancy [that] was associated with an increased risk of mental health problems.”

Kerstin Tuttle, a senior at the University of South Dakota, criticized HB 1157 before it was signed into law in a column published by the Argus Leader in February.

Tuttle, a member of the university Association for the Advancement of Women’s Rights and Students for Reproductive Rights, outlined her experience attending the legislative session for HB 1157, saying the meeting revealed state lawmakers’ “obsession with abortion, or, more specifically, with limiting abortion.”

“Our state is among the most difficult states in the nation for women to access abortion care …. With an overabundance of barriers and hoops to jump through, abortion has become nearly impossible to access for many women,” Tuttle wrote.

The university student said that the GOP-backed misinformation was not medically accurate or supported by any legitimate science.

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