S.D. Taxpayers Foot $377,735 Bill To Defend Antiabortion Law

July 30, 2012 — The defense of a 2005 South Dakota abortion law has cost taxpayers $377,735, according to the state Attorney General's Office, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld an informed consent provision of the law that requires doctors to tell women that abortion increases the risk of suicide (Hult, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 7/27).

The 7-4 decision vacated a permanent injunction against the provision issued by a three-judge panel of the same court and removes a remaining legal hurdle for the law to take effect. Since 2005, the law has been the subject of multiple court challenges from Planned Parenthood, with mixed results on its various provisions (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/25).

The cost of defending the law, which is much lower than some lawmakers predicted, includes fees paid for expert witnesses, travel time and outside legal advice. The taxpayer-portion of the bill does not include charges covered by the antiabortion legal defense fund created in 2006 or the Alpha Center and Black Hills Crisis Pregnancy Center, which joined the lawsuit as interveners. The legal defense fund has $70,319.

Ben Nesselhuf, chair of the state's Democratic Party, said he is frustrated by what he sees as taxpayers paying for ideologically- or politically-motivated decisions in the Legislature. "A lot of the people who are pushing these things, they don't care what it costs," Nesselhuf said, adding that despite voters blocking abortion bans in the state twice before, antiabortion advocates will "keep pushing" (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 7/27).