South Dakota Law Stopping Forced Abortions Gets Legal Help

State   |   ADF   |   Jan 11, 2012   |   2:38PM   |   Washington, DC

Two pregnancy help centers will help defend South Dakota’s law that protects women from being coerced into an abortion. A federal court granted a motion, filed by Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney Harold Cassidy, that allows the two centers to intervene in defense of the law, which is under attack in Planned Parenthood v. Daugaard.

The new law prohibits the scheduling of an abortion unless the mother first obtains a screening for coercion by a physician and then obtains certain counseling and an assessment for coercion at a pregnancy help center. No abortion can be performed less than 72 hours after the physician’s initial assessment so the mother can have the information and time to make an informed, voluntary decision. Cassidy explains that the law protects the mother’s fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to her relationship with her child against the dereliction of Planned Parenthood doctors.

“If Planned Parenthood truly cared about the well-being of women, it would not try to rush them into the abortion chamber before determining that her decision is not being coerced,” Cassidy said. “This law ensures that women have a chance to get accurate information and counseling from those who seek to protect the mother’s true rights. The requirement of a 72-hour waiting period is essential to ensure her decision is voluntary and informed.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Southern Division, ruled that the two centers have a right to intervene in defense of the law’s provisions regarding referrals to pregnancy help centers, assessments for coercion, and other counseling that inform women of all of their options.

The court concluded that the two centers, Alpha Center and Black Hills Crisis Pregnancy Center, “have a significant or legally protectable interest in the legitimacy of the Act because their primary mission of counseling pregnant women, particularly those who are contemplating abortion, would be impeded by striking down the Act.”

Cassidy represents the same centers in a separate lawsuit. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit is reviewing the only remaining provision in South Dakota’s 2005 informed consent law that has not yet been upheld by two other 8th Circuit opinions. Cassidy will argue on behalf of the centers in that case during a hearing Monday before all 11 judges of the 8th Circuit.