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S.D. House Panel Advances Bill Banning Abortion Based on Sex of Fetus

S.D. House Panel Advances Bill Banning Abortion Based on Sex of Fetus

February 14, 2014 — A South Dakota House committee has advanced a bill (HB 1162) that would penalize physicians for providing abortions sought because of the sex of the fetus, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports (Montgomery, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2/13).

Under the bill, doctors who knowingly perform or attempt to perform such procedures could be penalized with up to two years in prison and a $4,000 fine. In addition, physicians would be required to ask women whether they had used a test to determine the sex of the fetus and are seeking an abortion because of the fetus' sex.

The committee in a 9-3 vote approved the measure, which now proceeds to the full House floor for debate.

Key Arguments

During testimony on Wednesday, supporters of the measure said it is necessary because scientific advances are making it easier for women to learn the sex of the fetus earlier in pregnancy (Brokaw, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/12).

Opponents argued that the bill is unnecessary because tests that determine the fetus' sex are ineffective during the first trimester, when South Dakota allows abortions. They also said it would threaten patient confidentiality.

American Civil Liberties Union South Dakota Executive Director Heather Smith added that the bill "purports to be about gender equality, but in fact it is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict a woman's access to abortion care" (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2/13).

NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota Executive Director Abbie Peterson said the bill would be difficult to enforce, stating, "There's no way a doctor can know every thought in a woman's mind and every motive behind her decision-making" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/12).