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South Dakota bill excluding weekends, holidays from abortion wait passes

RightMarch March 1, 2013

David Montgomery at The Argus Leader reports:

The wait before South Dakota women can have abortions is about to get a little longer.

The South Dakota Senate on Thursday approved a bill excluding weekends and holidays from the state’s existing 72-hour pre-abortion waiting period.

It now heads to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for a signature or action.

In 2011, the Legislature passed a law requiring that 72-hour wait and requiring mandatory counseling by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers before a woman could have an abortion. It was pitched as a way to give women the time and information to properly consider the decision, and resist being coerced into an abortion, though opponents argued it was offensive and unnecessary.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are currently challenging the counseling requirement in court, having just asked to drop their challenge to the 72-hour period.

This year, anti-abortion advocates brought the bill to exclude weekends or holidays. They said it was to prevent Planned Parenthood, South Dakota’s sole provider of elective abortions, from forcing crisis pregnancy centers to be open on weekends and holidays by starting the 72-hour period on a Friday.

“Weekends honestly shouldn’t be an issue, unless Planned Parenthood would decide to make it an issue,” said Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls.

Other supporters of the bill House Bill 1237, said it was a reasonable restriction for an important decision like abortion.

“We are talking about a fatal, irrevocable decision,” said Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. “That’s why I think it’s important that we provide these ladies with as much opportunity as needed to assemble the information, get the input, the counsel and advice, and then have time to think.”

Opponents said the bill was insulting by suggesting that women couldn’t consider an abortion on weekends or holidays.

“To suggest that a woman is unable to make a decision in 72 consecutive hours is to (belittle) their ability to think and to suggest that somehow weekends and holidays have something to do with the difficulty of their decision,” said Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City.

Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said if crisis pregnancy centers are worthy of their name, they should be open whenever women need them, even on weekends.

But the full Senate agreed with Heineman that HB 1237 was a “simple” fix and a reasonable requirement to ask. It passed 24-9 and needs only Daugaard’s signature to become law. Both houses passed the bill with the two-thirds threshold needed to override any possible veto.


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