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.

photo from wikimedia commons


W. C
W. C11 months ago


William C
William C11 months ago

Thank you for the information.

michael c.
corbin m8 years ago

Who needs Sharia law. We've got CHRISTIANITY!!!! *yay*

Sharon H.
Sharon H8 years ago

Grey M.
I'm only angry at Night N because she DEMANDS that you admit to something SHE believe in whether you believe it not. And, I see you believe her. YOU might think that way, but do not DEMAND that I think it too because I DON'T!!

Grey M.
Grey M.8 years ago

Sharon H, you seem to be the one who is angry. If someone supports your right to kill your baby why are you so upset. YOU want people to tell you that the thing growing inside of you is not a viable life, that is not human till it is born. THat simply is not true. It is alive, it IS human and if you abort it, you have killed something. if a person supports your right to kill, why does it upset you?

Jessica C.
Jessica C8 years ago

Obviously this is not going to hold up in court, thank you 1st amendment, but what of the cost? Not just how much $ is wasted in court costs and other fees, but what of the women in SD and what this insanity is going to put them through. Typical politicans, lie, cheat, steal...anything to get their way, to hell with the consequences as well as everyone else.

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B8 years ago

"Faith based counseling": Hmm, does this take into account Wiccans or people who worship Ancient Egyptian deities? If it is going to be heavily slanted towards fundie Christian groups, then passing this bill is a very bad idea.

Hillary B.
Hillary G. B8 years ago

I am not a Christian. I have morals. I don't have a problem with abortion. Why should I have to undergo counseling by someone of the Christian faith if I wanted an abortion? I shouldn't. It is a violation of my freedom of religion. Why should I have to talk to anyone but my doctor if I want an abortion. I shouldn't. It is a violation of my basic intrinsic freedom as the only conscious, viable human being present. One would think these would be simple conclusions. However, there are others who are so blinded by their own extremist beliefs who can't even fathom how disgusting their ego is to others. Worse still is the continuing assumption of the moral superiority and absolute authority of Christianity. I have always believed that what makes you a good person has nothing to do with the religion you adhere to. Society has long determined what most of us believe to be moral. Unfortunately, I have found that those who crow most about how Christianity makes them good, are the farthest from it. They wear their faith as a badge of honor, rather than just being the type of person who deserves it.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers8 years ago

Separation of Church and State must be enforced.
"Faith based counseling" is enforcing another's religion on one. Another thing, a woman who wants an abortion doesn't get up one morning and say, "I'm going to get an abortion today." She has already suffered through a "waiting period" before making that decision.

Stop wasting tax payer's money on these anti-abortion attempts.

For those that say, "Put the child up for adoption," you should be aware that there are thousands of children available already that are not being adopted. Why aren't the anti-abortionists adopting them?

Bette-Ann L.
Bette-Ann Libin8 years ago

Women must revolt...Get Your Laws Off My Body....good Lord, we have to fight this battle over and over and over again....if men became pregant abortion would be a sacrament. And a curious question? Why are we not holding the male responsible for his contribution in the pregnancy process? Despite the 60's and 70's and progress women made, our strides have been cut out out from under our own feet in 2011. We fought, we worked, we worked harder than any man and still, to this day, make approx 76 cents to the dollar a man makes. Why is this?

...we are asking for our birthright, the right to choose when to have children and with whom. I find it interesting that the PL mov't doesn' "feel" a women has the capacity to make reproductive choices while simultaneously thinking she's capable to have and care for a child...unbelieveable in this day and age truly....we are back to the beginning. What a terrible shame.

I agree with Season, we should present this to the PL mov't itself, don't you think they'd jump right on it??? NOT...they could give a flying f**k about women and children...once they are born...the unborn, well that's "different".