South Dakota’s onerous new abortion hurdle that requires any woman seeking to terminate her pregnancy to wait at least 72 hours as well as undergo an evaluation at a religious-based crisis pregnancy center has yet to go into effect, blocked by courts as judges decide whether or not the rule is constitutional. But now the South Dakota legislature is trying to move it more rapidly through the system by adjusting some of the rules for the mandatory counseling session.
The centers that originally would be involved with “counseling” women prior to abortion, as well as seek to determine if the women are being “coerced” into termination, are mostly volunteer-staffed entities with no medical licenses or credentials, allowing them to offer misleading and outright fictitious statements about abortion, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases. Formed by anti-choice advocates, some of whom have been active in the drafting of the new rule as well as fundraising to defend it in legal challenges, the pregnancy centers have a vested interest not just in talking women out of abortions, but in eventually receiving additional funding that would likely be necessary for them to act as counselors should the law ever go into effect.
But a state House committee is considering rewriting the law to mandate that the centers “have licensed doctors, nurses or counselors.” Although the change isn’t likely to effect the intent and ideology of those who will be in place to act as gatekeepers for women who want to terminate a pregnancy, at the very least it could give women recourse to complain about them professionally should the pregnancy centers misuse their power.
One thing that is apparently not up for review? The 72 hour waiting period, the longest in the country. For women who have great distance to travel in order to get to the state’s only abortion clinic, the waiting period will cost them additional hundreds of dollars in expenses, lost wages and child care. And sadly, it seems to be the start of a trend. Utah is now considering legislation to lengthen their waiting period to 72 hours as well.
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