Minnesota doctor vows to keep proving abortion meds to South Dakota women

“It’s business as usual,” said Dr. Julie Amaon, medical director of Just the Pill.

Mifepristone is one of the pills used in the medical abortion process.
Courtesy South Dakota News Watch

A Minnesota doctor who helps procure mail-order medication abortions for South Dakota women said she plans to continue that practice even if the U.S. Supreme Court outlaws or limits the use of mifepristone, one of the pills used in the process.

“It’s business as usual,” said Dr. Julie Amaon, medical director of Just the Pill.

The Twin Cities telemedicine provider assisted more than 150 South Dakota residents in 2022 and 2023 with online consultations and prescriptions to terminate pregnancies. The organization has provided service to more than 5,000 patients overall since starting as a nonprofit in 2020.

Amaon told News Watch that her “neck is sore from the whiplash” of legal wranglings that have intensified the abortion debate since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022 to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, allowing states to determine legality and access of reproductive services.

Julie Amaon

The new battleground focuses on medication abortion, which currently accounts for 54% of abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health organization.


U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Texas-based Trump appointee, issued a ruling April 7 that threatened to halt the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of abortion pill mifepristone, first approved in 2000.

Less than a week later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused the mifepristone suspension but upheld Kacsmaryk’s rollback of more recent FDA policies that made abortion pills easier to obtain by removing the requirement of in-person provider visits.

On April 21, the Supreme Court issued a stay on that 5th Circuit ruling, reverting abortion access to post-Dobbs status while the appeals process continues, with a decision expected sometime in 2024 on the status of mifepristone and how medication abortion is administered.

Amaon, whose group aims to provide abortion access to women who reside in states with strict prohibitions, said Just the Pill will forge ahead no matter what the Supreme Court decides.

That could mean employing a one-pill regimen to terminate pregnancies if mifepristone is outlawed or using a mobile clinic to dispense pills in person to women who cross the border from South Dakota if FDA regulations change.

“What bothers me most is that the courts and lawyers are deciding matters of general health care instead of physicians and their patients,” she said.

A July 2022 News Watch survey of registered South Dakota voters showed that a majority (57%) of respondents support allowing legal access to abortion medications in the state, including 42% who “strongly support” such access. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they support having a statewide referendum to determine South Dakota’s laws regarding reproductive rights.

The poll also showed that nearly 8 in 10 respondents (79%) oppose criminal penalties for anyone who helps a South Dakota resident obtain an abortion where it is legal, such as in a neighboring state. An overwhelming majority (71%) also support permitting South Dakota residents to leave the state to obtain abortions.


Medication abortion typically involves two pills. The first drug, mifepristone, works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which the body needs to continue a pregnancy. That process causes the uterine lining to stop thickening and break down, detaching the embryo. The second drug, misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, causes the uterus to contract and dilates the cervix, which expels the embryo.

A misoprostol-only regimen involves taking the drug with the same dosage as typically used, then taking it again three hours later, causing the uterus to contract. This process is repeated for three separate doses, three hours apart, until the pregnancy is terminated, Amaon said.

“Because you have to take it more times, the side effects are not fun,” she added. “You might feel like you have the flu, there are some fever and chills, sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Other than that, it’s very safe and effective. There are no greater risk factors or complications because you’re only taking misoprostol.”

There is a slight difference in effectiveness, with 95%-98% of abortions successful with the two-drug regimen compared with 85% with misoprostol only, according to the organization’s website. The two-pill regimen is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Besides Minnesota, Just the Pill offers services in Wyoming, Montana and Colorado, which positions them to provide access to residents from eastern and western South Dakota and North Dakota.

Charging $350 per patient, the nonprofit saw about 1,300 patients overall in 2021. It increased to more than 3,000 in 2022, utilizing online pharmacies such as American Mail Order out of Michigan and Honeybee Health in California.

In the first four months of 2023, the organization served 1,135 patients, including 43 from South Dakota, 31 in Minnesota and 12 in Wyoming.

The dichotomy of Republican-dominated South Dakota and Democratic-controlled Minnesota as neighboring states during a time of increasing friction over abortion rights is a challenging one for law enforcement.


South Dakota had a “trigger law” from 2005 that took effect when Roe was overturned, making it a Class 6 felony for anyone “who administers to any pregnant female or prescribes or procures for any pregnant female” a means for an abortion, except to save the life of the mother. The crime is punishable by two years in prison, a $4,000 fine or both.

Minnesota, meanwhile, passed a law in January to strengthen abortion rights, establishing that “every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual’s own reproductive health.”

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley told News Watch in early February that his office is monitoring the situation of women crossing the border to obtain abortion pills and that he expects state laws to be followed. Those laws focus on the person providing abortion services, not the woman terminating her pregnancy.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley speaks at an event in 2016 in Platte. (Matt Gade / Republic)
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley speaks at an event in 2016 in Platte.
Republic file photo

Asked if someone providing telemedicine abortion services to South Dakota residents in a different state could be prosecuted, Jackley said that “if you aid and abet or you conspire or you actively participate in a criminal act, our reach can go beyond the state’s borders.”

On May 2, Jackley clarified to News Watch that his office considers it a violation of South Dakota law if abortion medications are mailed to a South Dakota address. That means Just the Pill’s practice of dispensing pills in the state where they were prescribed would not be deemed illegal under current state law.

— This article was produced by South Dakota News Watch, a non-profit journalism organization located online at

What To Read Next
Get Local