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Judge Allows Some Parts of S.D. Abortion Law To Take Effect

Judge Allows Some Parts of S.D. Abortion Law To Take Effect

June 28, 2012 — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that South Dakota may begin requiring physicians to ask women various screening questions before an abortion, but other provisions in the same law will remain blocked until she rules on a lawsuit challenging the statute, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Brokaw, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).

The screening provision, which will take effect July 1, requires doctors to ask women whether they have been coerced or pressured into seeking an abortion, are younger than age 22, have a history of mental health problems or have religious conflicts with abortion. If a woman answers "yes" to any of the questions or expresses ambivalence about the procedure, the physician is required to tell her that studies have shown she might risk psychological harm if she has an abortion (Walker, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 6/27).

The provisions of the law that remain on hold would require a woman to wait three days after an initial consultation before an abortion. During that time, the woman would be required to undergo counseling at a crisis pregnancy center -- nonmedical facilities that encourage women to continue their pregnancies (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).

Background on Lawsuit

After the law was approved in 2011, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota -- which operates the state's only abortion clinic -- sued to block it on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional burden on a woman's right to an abortion. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier temporarily blocked most of the provisions -- including the waiting period and CPC counseling requirement -- until the court challenge is decided (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/27). Schreier said those provisions likely are unconstitutional.

This year, the state Legislature amended the provision involving the physician screening, leading Planned Parenthood to drop its challenge to that portion of the law. Planned Parenthood, the state and two CPCs involved in the suit then agreed that the judge could let the provision take effect (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).