South Dakota Governor Signs Tough Abortion Bill Into Law

Posted:
03/22/11
It's not easy for a woman to get an abortion in South Dakota. There is only one abortion clinic in the state.

As of Tuesday, it got even more difficult.

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to wait three days after meeting with a doctor and receive counseling before undergoing the procedure, news agencies reported.

The measure brought condemnation from abortion rights groups. CBS News.com said that the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of South Dakota and Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced Tuesday they plan to file a legal challenge to the law, which is to take effect July 1.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," Daugaard said in a written statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

The governor said state attorneys have agreed to defend the law and that he's spoken with a sponsor who has pledged to finance the state's legal costs, the Associated Press reports.

South Dakota is hardly alone in staking out new territory in the abortion battle. Many statehouses where Republicans have a majority are contemplating new abortion restrictions. "State bills are currently pending all over the country, and many states are considering multiple abortion-related bills," according to CBS News, which published an in-depth story on the issue.

In South Dakota, the three-day waiting period would be the longest in the nation, according to Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Planned Parenthood operates the only health center in South Dakota that provides abortion care.

"The voters of South Dakota, by resounding margins at the ballot box, twice have told their legislators that the decision to have an abortion is between a woman, her family and her doctor and that government should not intrude on that decision," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

"We know that women reflect, talk with friends and family, and consult with pastors and their doctors before making this difficult decision. This bill intrudes on those relationships, shows contempt for women and disdain for voters' wishes."

The counseling provision of the bill has attracted a good deal of the criticism. According to Planned Parenthood, the law has no requirements surrounding the qualifications of the crisis centers' counselors. "Furthermore, the crisis pregnancy centers must have as their central mission a desire to dissuade a woman from having an abortion, no matter what her particular risks or circumstances," the group says.

Abortion opponents, however, say the bill gives women thinking about an abortion "both sides of the story," as the measure's main sponsor puts it, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

"This bill would ensure that the woman...will have access to some personal support as opposed to somebody just pressuring her to get an abortion," said Rep. Roger Hunt, the bill's main sponsor. "It seems to me that spending a little time talking to somebody and waiting 72 hours is nothing unreasonable."