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South Dakota Passes Law Requiring Potentially Deceptive, Non-Medical Counseling for Abortion

March 22, 2011

HB1217 was signed into law today by the Governor of South Dakota; it will require women to visit crisis pregnancy centers (called “pregnancy help centers” in the bill) in order to effectively get their permission to obtain an abortion. Those centers are known for misleading women about the medical risks of abortion, and exist primarily to try to convince women not to choose abortion.

These centers are not staffed by licensed medical or psychological professionals. Women will be required to receive a presentation on “what education, counseling, and other assistance is available to help the pregnant mother keep and care for her child.” This would be fine, if it were intended to help women make an educated choice rather than to sway them to a specific choice (without unduly interfering with their ability to make that choice), and if women were actually individually interested in hearing about such resources rather than being forcibly subjected to it as a class. This is not the case with this legislation, which forces all women seeking abortion to receive a narrative intended to influence their decision. Furthermore, biased counseling should not be required for any legal medical procedure.

Women will also be required to “have a private interview to discuss her circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion,” although the centers are not in any way licensed or regulated as social workers or other counselors, and it is not apparent what qualifications they may have for having such a discussion in a fair way. “Coercion” is the new “what about the women?” concern of the anti-choice now that word is spreading about the falseness of the breast cancer and depression fears; people apparently can’t believe that the 1 in 4 U.S. women who choose abortion at some point in their lives are doing so of their own free will. I find this refusal to accept women’s agency in choosing abortion particularly interesting against the backdrop of forcing women into non-medical “crisis pregnancy centers” that exist to coerce.

There also does not appear to be any provision in the legislation that would require the centers to see a woman in a timely fashion (or at all), creating the potential to delay her beyond her ability to have an abortion.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU may seek an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect (on July 1).

I have more about the bill from before it passed at Our Bodies Our Blog.

The state also passed a 72-hour waiting period, creating significant burdens for women in the form of travel time, travel and lodging costs, and missed work.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Janet Yeager permalink
    March 23, 2011 4:19 pm

    I’m shocked and outraged by this bill. What a slap in the face to women–treating them like children who don’t have a mind of their own and who aren’t capable of making their own decisions.

  2. Galaxian permalink
    April 7, 2011 9:29 am

    This kind of nonsense costs wastes hard-earned tax dollars, as well. In the 1990s, Utah passed a bill allowing abortion only in rape, incest, or medical emergency cases. Then they spent $5 million on the foregone legal conclusion, which was that the law was struck down.

    The decision to have an abortion may not be made by a “free, unencumbered” will under no external stress. Few decisions of this importance are. There is usually a reason the mother can neither carry to term (work obligations, perhaps), nor keep a baby at home (work obligations plus limited income). However, I am quite sure than women realize fully well that their abortion will kill their baby and that they do not feel good about this result. That they choose to go ahead anyway testifies to how costly children have become today and how few good alternatives are available to women who conceive.

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