South Dakota Pregnancy Centers Don’t Want To Be Forced To Counsel Women Who Want Abortions
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has one week left in which to either sign or veto H.B. 1217, a bill that will institute a mandatory 72 hour waiting period for an abortion while a woman undergoes faith-based counseling from the state’s pregnancy centers. Opponents of the bill primarily see this unconstitutional bill as a severe restriction on a woman’s right to choose. But it seems there is another group concerned about losing their freedom of choice, too — the pregnancy centers who would have to provide the counseling.
Although some centers are enthusiastically heralding the bill as a chance to talk women out of having abortions, not all of the state’s pregnancy centers are as happy about the bill, nor do they want to participate in the potential new law.
Via the Rapid City Journal:
“As an organization that believes very strongly in the sanctity of all human life, Bella represents the very loving, compassionate side of the pro-life community,” [Roxanne Johnson, executive director of the Bella Pregnancy Resource Center in Spearfish] said. “However, we are not here to talk women into or out of anything. We are here to make it possible for women to carry to term if that’s what they want to do in their heart of hearts. Likewise, we are not here to judge those who choose abortion but to offer compassionate help after the abortion for those who struggle with it once it’s done.”
Johnson said she enthusiastically supports increased waiting periods and strengthening informed consent laws for abortion.
“Anytime we’d have an opportunity to speak to anyone seeking an abortion, we’d like to do that,” she said. “There tends to be a lot of confusion in a crisis situation and people don’t often think clearly. This bill insures that women not only have the time needed to think through a decision that is irreversible, but the vital information that is needed in making a life-changing decision of this magnitude,” she said.
But she also is concerned about exactly what information regarding Bella’s volunteers or clients might be shared with an abortion clinic under HB 1217.
The bill requires any physician performing an abortion to first “obtain from the pregnant mother a written statement that she obtained a consultation with a pregnancy help center, which sets forth the name and address of the pregnancy help center, the date and time of the consultation and the name of the counselor at the pregnancy help center with whom she consulted…”
“Because I have seen first hand the devastation that abortion has caused many women and families, I would have a difficult time providing any statement that would assist or facilitate an abortion,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s concern, that by providing the counseling to women as a step for her to actually obtain an abortion means that the counselors could feel complicit in the end of the woman’s pregnancy, is causing her group to consider opting out of the law if it passes. But Leslee Unruh, the director of Alpha Center, a pregnancy center that advocated for the bill and is already providing training to other centers in anticipation of the governor signing the bill into law, seems less morally conflicted, even stating that women could always just “lie” about receiving the counseling, which would leave the pregnancy centers out of feeling guilty.
Unruh and other supporters of the legislation say providing a written statement would in no way make an anti-abortion counselor or the center they work for complicit in the abortion. The statement verifying the consultation is the responsibility of the woman, not the pregnancy center, to provide, but the abortion provider is under no legal responsibility to verify the truthfulness of that statement.
“The woman can walk in the door and walk out without talking to anybody and say she was there. It’s an honor system,” Unruh admitted of the bill.
Kathi DiNicola, Director of Media Relations for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, notes that H.B. 1217, which was enthusiastically embraced by legislators, is in the end going to cause more problems for its supporters than it was allegedly created to solve.
The CPCs raise number of very interesting questions that point out some of the flaws and confusion in the bill – and that proves legislators rushed to pass this legislation without thinking it through properly. What is clear is that the bill imposes severe penalties on physicians unless they get some sort of written proof that the patient sought counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center”
So the bill’s supporters admit that there’s no real way to verify the new rules, the bill’s opponents either question its constitutionality or don’t want to participate in it if it passes, and legal experts say it will be challenged anyway and cost the taxpayers potentially millions of dollars to defend and probably won’t hold up in court even with a legal defense.
So why has the governor not vetoed H.B. 1217?
Tell Governor Daugaard to veto H.B. 1217. In a time of budget cuts, why would you spend taxpayer dollars defending a bill that will never become law?
Make your voice heard — sign here to tell the Governor to veto H.B. 1217 and save the taxpayers’ money.