Huffpost Politics

South Dakota Senate Passes Bill Requiring 72 Hour Wait Before Abortion

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ABORTION
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) | AP

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Senate voted Wednesday to require women to wait 72 hours before they can have abortions and to submit to counseling about why they shouldn't go through with the procedures.

The state Senate voted 21-13 in favor of the legislation, sending it to Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard for approval. Daugaard, who generally opposes abortion rights, declined to tell The Associated Press if he intends to sign the bill.

"I haven't looked at it," he said, adding that he had not studied the bill earlier because of the possibility it could be amended.

About half the states, including South Dakota, make women wait 24 hours before going through with an abortion. But the 72-hour wait would be the longest in the nation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Under the new guidelines, a woman would have to undergo counseling at one of several state-approved "pregnancy help centers," all of which seek to persuade women not to have abortions. No other state has such a requirement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota.

Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, the legislation's main sponsor in the state Senate, said it would better protect women from being pressured into having abortions and better inform them of other options. He contends that women get little counseling at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls – the only place women can get non-emergency abortions in South Dakota – and that women only see a doctor once the procedure is performed.

"Defend the right of women to be informed and know the risk before they go forward," Novstrup said during the floor debate before the vote.

Opponents of the legislation contend it would place an undue burden on abortion seekers, violating their rights by interfering with their access to medical care, and is meant to make an already difficult choice even more so. They also predict that if signed into law, the new abortion guidelines will be challenged in court and will ultimately get overturned.

"If we send this bill out, it will not do what you want it to. This bill provides legs only to the courtroom." Republican state Sen. Joni Cutler, of Sioux Falls, warned her colleagues before they voted.

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, a group that supports abortion rights, might join a court challenge or refer the measure to a statewide vote Daugaard signs it into law, said Elaine Roberts, its co-chair.

Republican Sen. Deb Peters, of Hartford, said before the vote that she was troubled that women seeking abortions would have to visit pregnancy help centers.

"This bill inserts a stranger between a woman and her medical doctor," Peters said.

Leslie Unruh, the president and founder of the Alpha Center pregnancy help agency in Sioux Falls, which would be one of those approved by the state, said she thinks the bill is needed to protect women. "Women will be safer in South Dakota," said Unrah.

The South Dakota Legislature passed two measures in the past decade that would have banned nearly all abortions in attempts to generate court battles seeking to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, but voters statewide rejected those bills in 2006 and 2008.

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Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.

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