South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law a bill today for the longest abortion waiting period in the country — 72 hours. The measure also helps women find abortion alternatives.
The law in question, which takes effect July 1, would require women considering an abortion to visit a crisis pregnancy center before going to an abortion business to get counseling on abortion’s alternatives as well as the risks associated with having one. The idea behind the bill — which goes further than legislation in other states — is to get women tangible pregnancy help and support that they won’t normally find at an abortion center. The counseling would not require any out of pocket expense on behalf of the women considering an abortion.
“I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives,” the Republican governor said in the statement. “I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”
Daugaard said weeks ago he is pro-life and would likely sign the bill into law.
“I am pro-life,” Daugaard told the Rapid City Journal earlier this month. “I’ve read the bill and I’m inclined to sign it, but I want to examine it along with the counsel of others to make sure there’s no unintended consequences that haven’t been identified during the debate.”
Abortion advocates have already said they will file a lawsuit challenging the measure in court, but the governor said in his statement that he has talked with state attorneys who are willing to defend the law and he pointed to a private donor who is willing to finance the state’s costs for defending the law.
About half of the states across the country have a waiting period but typically of 24 hours in length. No other state requires women to visit a pregnancy center beforehand but many give women information about such centers — which provide tangible help for pregnant women.
Rep. Roger Hunt, a Republican from Brandon who sponsored the bill, said he’s been contacted by many women who made it clear they did not get adequate information or counseling about abortion before getting their abortion at the Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, the state’s only abortion center. Women have told him of how they have been pressured into getting abortions but that the Planned Parenthood abortion center does nothing to help them resist it — just selling them an abortion.
“This is a matter of life. This is a matter of taking life,” Hunt said, according to an AP report. “This is about information and blocking coercion. These are all good and noble objectives.”
The Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls strongly supported the bill, saying it would provide the necessary “informed consent that must be given to mothers considering an abortion so that they are protected and not coerced.”
“This additional protection will also help to insure that mothers are as fully aware as possible of the implications and ramifications of the grave decision to terminate the most sacred gift of life,” it said.
The bill also requires the abortion practitioner to verify that there is no pressure or coercion on the mother when she makes the decision to have an abortion.
The House voted 49-19 for the bill, but, first, Democratic Rep. Peggy Gibson and other abortion advocates promised the bill would be challenged in court as supposedly unconstitutional and intruding into the doctor-patient relationship — even though women getting abortions have never met the abortion practitioner beforehand.
The Judiciary Committee voted 9-4 for the bill. Several women who testified before the panel in its hearing on the bill said the state’s lone abortion center, run by Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, does not provide adequate pre-abortion counseling.
Brittany Weston, of Yankton, became pregnant at age 22 and her partner insisted she have an abortion because he did not want to pay child support for raising the baby. Before the abortion, Weston only spoke with staff at Planned Parenthood and she said she wanted the abortion clinic to provide her with help on how to deal with the situation — instead, it did an abortion and took the life of her child.
“If this bill you’re discussing today was law at that time, I would have my child right now and he would be about 5 years old,” Weston said. “They took something from me I’ll never get back — my child and my soul.”
Kimberly Martinez, executive director of the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, told legislators her pregnancy center has trained experts ready to assist pregnant women with options and alternatives.