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AP Looks at Antiabortion Counseling Required Under New S.D. Law

AP Looks at Antiabortion Counseling Required Under New S.D. Law

June 28, 2011 — Abortion-rights advocates say a controversial South Dakota law (HB 1217) that requires women to wait three days and receive counseling at a crisis pregnancy center before obtaining an abortion will create costly barriers to receiving legal services, the Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 6/26).

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota on May 27 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls against the new state law. The legislation made South Dakota the first state to implement a 72-hour waiting period before women can receive abortion care. About half of U.S. states require a 24-hour waiting period. The law, which will take effect July 1, includes an exception in emergency cases but not for cases of rape or incest.

Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights appear to agree that theoretically the U.S. Supreme Court would not uphold the law because it imposes the longest waiting period in the country before women can receive abortion services and requires women to seek counseling at CPCs, which oppose abortion. In practice, the waiting period could stretch to seven days because abortion care is provided only one day a week in South Dakota (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/31).

Opponents of the law say it will force low-income women to make long, expensive trips to receive the required counseling at one of the three centers that have registered with the state to provide the counseling. Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said the law "really makes a mockery of informed consent" because she says the counseling will only provide women with information about continuing a pregnancy. "It'll all be designed to steer her in one direction, which is to discontinue her pregnancy," she said.

Kathi Di Nicola of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota noted that the "stated mission of a crisis pregnancy is to dissuade a woman from seeking abortion care." Officials with CPCs deny that they try to pressure women (AP/Washington Post, 6/26).