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South Dakota lawmakers approve measure extending wait time for abortions

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March 14, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law on March 8 a measure that excludes weekends and holidays from the state's 72-hour waiting period for abortions.[1] The signing of the bill came after the Republican-controlled state house approved it in early February and the Republican-controlled state senate approved the measure at the end of February, before sending it onto Daugaard for the final step.

The signing of the bill was the latest legislative or court action on abortion laws, and extended the required wait time before an abortion, which was reportedly already the longest in the nation.[1][2]

After passage of a 2011 law, women seeking abortions in South Dakota were required to wait three days, or 72 hours, after seeing an abortion clinic doctor before they could have the procedure.[3] The bill extends that wait by clarifying that weekends and holidays do not count in calculating the three-day waiting period.[2]

South Dakota is among states with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, a Republican trifecta, that have enacted tough anti-abortion measures in recent years.[3]

The only abortion clinic in South Dakota is in Sioux Falls, the state's largest city, and is run by Planned Parenthood.[3][4]

Supporters say the change would ensure women have time to receive required counseling at pregnancy help centers, which discourage abortions.[3]

Supporter of the measure, Sen. Phyllis Heineman (R) said the measure will make sure women can get counseling without being rushed. Otherwise, the abortion clinic could have a woman meet with a doctor on Friday and schedule her abortion for Monday, meaning she would have to visit a pregnancy help center on Saturday or Sunday, when counselors might not be available.[3]

Opponents say the measure could hamper many women seeking abortions, including those seeking abortions for life-threatening reasons.[3] Also, opponents argue that extending the three-day waiting period could cause hardships for some women who live far from the clinic and have to make separate trips to Sioux Falls for the initial clinic consultation, counseling session and abortion procedure.[4]

Sen. Craig Tieszen (R), voted against the measure because he said the counseling should be done quickly, not delayed, adding "I think this bill moves in the wrong direction."[3]

Planned Parenthood has reportedly dropped its legal challenge to the state's 72-hour waiting period, but continues to contest the state law requiring women to attend a counseling session at an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center.[1]

The 72-hour waiting period in South Dakota has been on hold pending the Planned Parenthood challenge, and will begin to be enforced within the next several weeks.[1]

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