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Montana group welcomes South Dakotans seeking abortion, reproductive care

Montanans For Choice

A Montana-based abortion rights group is reaching out to neighboring states announcing abortion and contraception are legal and available there.

South Dakota has a near total abortion ban, which extends to pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Health care professionals say the state’s current abortion exception is unclear.

“Minnesota and Colorado are being so inundated with volume from other states that they might have wait times," said Nicole Smith, executive director of Montanans for Choice.

Smith said the number of South Dakota women travelling to Montana is quite small. That’s why the group is raising awareness that the state is an option to procure the procedure, which includes a billboard campaign that welcomes those seeking the procedure.

 "In Montana, we can see people same day that they get here, pretty much," Smith said. "We just want folks to know that we do have a lot of availability and if they don’t want to wait and they can get into Montana—we can probably see them pretty quickly.”

Since September last year, 280 South Dakotans travelled to Minnesota for an abortion and 170 travelled to Colorado for the procedure. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health group.

The closest abortion facilities to South Dakota in Montana are located in Billings. Smith says clinics also offer abortion medication through telemedicine.

Smith said Montana’s constitution has strong health care privacy rights.

“We have almost unfettered access to abortion in Montana," Smith added. "There’s no mandatory waiting periods. There’s no mandatory counselling. We have telehealth for medication abortion. We’re very grateful that our constitution has protected those rights—that doctors and providers are able to give best practice medicine to us without politicians interfering in that way.”

South Dakota voters are set to vote on whether to enshrine abortion access in the state constitution this November. Constitutional Amendment G grants South Dakota women access to abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy. It allows the state to restrict the procedure in the third trimester, with exceptions for health and life of the mother.

Planned Parenthood North Central States believe the measure will not “adequately reinstate” abortion access in the state.

Abortion opponents call the measure extreme and point to resources compiled by the state to support women facing an unexpected pregnancy. 

“While the abortion lobby pushes abortion as the only option, South Dakota has a pro-life safety net in place to offer real hope and lasting help that includes pregnancy centers, adoption resources, and the Bright Start program that provides assistance from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday,” said Kelsey Prichard, director of State Public Affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

Prichard said abortion harms women and ends lives.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.