South Dakota Governor Signs Pro-Life Bill Banning Late-Term Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 11, 2016   |   10:27AM   |   Pierre, SD

South Dakota just became the next state to protect unborn babies from painful, late-term abortions.

On Thursday, Gov. Dennis Gaugaard signed into law a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks and penalize doctors who do late-term abortions in non-emergency situations, the Argus Leader reports. Penalties for violations of the law include up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, according to the report. The only exceptions would be in certain medical emergency cases, the report states.

“It’s a great day for South Dakota,” said Debbie Pease, lobbyist for South Dakota Right to Life. “Our hope is that this is going to save the lives of babies by decreasing the number of abortions.”

South Dakota state Rep. Isaac Latterell, who sponsored the bill, also celebrated the governor signing it into law on Thursday.

“I think it’ll save lives because it lets women know that their children really are humans just like us,” Latterell said. “I think it’s a great step forward for our state, and I would like to see us do more to protect the innocent.”

The state House passed the pro-life measure last week, LifeNews reported.

South Dakota has one abortion clinic left, a Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls that does abortions up to 14 weeks; however, the new bill would ensure that later abortions will not be done in the future in the state. More than 18,000 very late-term abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America.

A few pro-abortion groups expressed outrage at the new law on Thursday. Susan Kroger, executive director of the radical abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, claimed the 20-week abortion ban is unconstitutional.

“I hope the voters remember these legislative priorities in the ballot box,” Kroger said.

Daugaard spokeswoman Kelsey Pritchard told the Associated Press that the state’s attorney general “will be prepared to defend the constitutionality of the bill” if pro-abortion groups challenge it.

The governor did not comment on the bill Thursday.

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The bill is modeled after the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has become law in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger. Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.

Though abortion advocates deny the science of fetal pain, researchers have established that unborn babies can feel pain at 20 weeks or earlier. Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for unborn pain.

He has testified before U.S. Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen wrote, “The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb.”

“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.

Further research showed that hormone levels in unborn babies decrease when pain-relievers are supplied, LifeNews previously reported.

As a result of this research, a pro-life Utah state senator recently proposed legislation to require that unborn babies be given anesthesia prior to being killed in an abortion.