S.D. sets 3-day wait for abortions

Posted: March 23, 2011

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a law Tuesday requiring women to wait three days after meeting with a doctor to have an abortion, the longest waiting period in the nation.

Abortion rights groups immediately said they plan to file a lawsuit challenging the measure, which also requires women to undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortions.

Daugaard said in a written statement that he has conferred with state attorneys who will defend the law in court and a sponsor who has pledged private money to finance the state's legal costs. Officials have estimated the cost of defending the law at $1.7 million to $4.5 million.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," the Republican governor said. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

About half the states, including South Dakota, now have 24-hour waiting periods, but the state's new law is the first to have a three-day wait and requires women to seek counseling at pregnancy help centers, said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota's only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, and the American Civil Liberties Union said they would ask a judge to strike down the measure.

Kathi Di Nicola, of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the law would intrude on women's right to make personal decisions about medical treatment and require women seeking abortions to receive counseling from unlicensed and unaccredited pregnancy centers that are often religiously motivated.

"It's not going to do one thing to reduce unintended pregnancy or reduce abortion," Di Nicola said. "We know women think carefully and consider their options."

Supporters of the measure say the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls gives women little information or counseling before they have abortions done by doctors flown in from out of state. The bill would help make sure women are not being coerced by boyfriends or relatives, they said.

The law, which takes effect July 1, says an abortion can be scheduled only by a doctor who has met with a woman and determined she is voluntarily seeking an abortion. The procedure cannot be done until at least 72 hours after that first consultation.

Before getting an abortion, a woman also will have to consult with a pregnancy help center to get information about services available to help her give birth and keep a child. The state will publish a list of pregnancy help centers, all of which seek to persuade women to give birth.

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