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Gov. Noem bans ‘vaccine passports’ in South Dakota

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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed an executive order on Tuesday banning ‘vaccine passports’ in the Mount Rushmore State.

“Since the start of the COVID pandemic, we have provided the people of South Dakota with up-to-date science, facts, and data and then trusted them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones,” said Governor Kristi Noem in a Wednesday press release. “We’ve resisted government mandates, and our state is stronger for it.”

The Republican governor added, “I encourage all South Dakotans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but we are not going to mandate any such activity. And we are not going to restrict South Dakotans’ exercise of their freedoms with un-American policies like vaccine passports. In our state, ‘Under God, the people rule.’ And that is how we will operate for as long as I am governor.”

As noted in the order, South Dakota hasn’t imposed harsh COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic. In fact, the state didn’t close its economy and businesses and didn’t impose a mask mandate.

The recent announcement is consistent with the state’s rationale throughout the pandemic. In fact, Noem’s order notes that “a vaccine passport program could lead to unjustified, non-science-based restrictions on travel, speech, association and other civil rights…”

It also adds that “Vaccine passports could lead to the improper disclosure of private health information and the unjustified use of that private health information to restrict South Dakotans’ access to workplaces, schools, businesses, gatherings, hotels, gyms, restaurants, theaters, music venues, or eve weddings…”

A number of Republican governors across the country have also pushed back on ‘vaccine passports,’ including Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who issued a ban on Monday. Earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did the same by signing bans via executive orders.

South Dakota has recorded 106,677 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,953 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the state Health Department. Further, 278,000 South Dakotans have reportedly been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

You can follow Jennie Taer on Twitter @JennieSTaer

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College to begin offering abortion pill on campus

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Barnard College, a partner campus of Columbia University, will be rolling out a plan in May that involves supplying students with abortion pills, the Columbia Spectator reported. The plan to provide the abortion service in the form of mifepristone abortion pills to students was initially announced in the fall of 2022 after the overturning of Roe. V Wade, according to the Spectator. However, the rollout’s delay has been partially attributed to an August 2023 grant the college received, which allowed Barnard to join a large network of primary care providers that will help steer the college through the procedures.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reports Barnard’s Primary Care Health Service will host student focus groups in upcoming weeks to find out student perspectives about the service and to identify new ways to support students considering abortion. “We wanted to make sure that we’re addressing this from every angle that will be supportive of students,” Sarah Ann Anderson-Burnett, director of Medical Services and Quality Improvement of Barnard, told the Spectator. Anderson-Burnett also said it has expanded the availability of its abortion providers to after-hours and year-round.

Barnard has six medical professionals, including two physicians and four nurse practitioners, who are capable of performing the procedure, Mariana Catallozzi, vice president for Health and Wellness and chief health officer of Barnard, told the Spectator. The school also launched a partnership with AccessNurse, a medical call center that will assist with patient concerns related to abortions.

“The training doesn’t end with the clinicians,” Anderson-Burnett told the Spectator. “Clinicians are trained on the actual provision, but there’s also an overall training that will be provided to key partners and stakeholders across the campus because we want every step, every touchpoint, to be supportive and to be trauma-informed and to be patient-valued and centered but also respect confidentiality and privacy.”

The University of Massachusetts Amherst spent more than $650,000 to stock abortion pills in March 2023 at the request of Democratic Maryland Gov. Maura Healey. Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill in May 2023 forcing college in the state to stock abortion pills on campus.

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