State Rep. Roger Hunt

A law is being proposed in South Dakota that would require abortionists to refer potential patients to a pregnancy help center for “the other side of the story” and require that those mothers-to-be then affirm that they have had no one forcing them into the procedure.

The plan, which is common sense to those in the pro-life community but anathema to abortionists, follows the state’s earlier victory in a drawn-out court battle that went up to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that now requires abortionists clearly to tell pregnant women an abortion will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” and that her relationship with that unborn child is protected under the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the state.

House Bill 1217 already has been adopted in the state House of Representatives and is expected to be considered in the state Senate over coming days.

State Rep. Roger Hunt, one of many sponsors of the bill, told WND that HB 1217 is just a logical extension of the concern that led to House Bill 1166 several years ago, the informed consent concept that Planned Parenthood unsuccessfully challenged in court.

In that dispute, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Supreme Court allows a state to “use its regulatory authority to require a physician to provide truthful, non-misleading information relevant to a patient’s decision to have an abortion, even if that information might also encourage the patient to choose childbirth over abortion.”

The state law, in fact, dictates the specific words that must be used by Planned Parenthood business operators, and the state subsequently threatened sanctions against Planned Parenthood when its officials decided to interpret the law to their own benefit and they substituted their own “warning” to patients.

Hunt told WND that the new proposal addresses two concerns that followed the creation of the state’s informed consent requirement: whether women are getting full and fair information about their pregnancy options and whether they were being “coerced” into abortions.

“We wanted to ensure that a woman considering having an abortion is being fully advised about all of the physical, mental, and psychological risks in having an abortion, and is being advised about options concerning parenting,” he said.

Thus, the requirement in the law that abortionists “provide the pregnant mother with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all pregnancy help centers that are registered with the South Dakota Department of Health.”

Officials with the Alpha Center, a major pregnancy help center in Sioux Falls, told WND that the requirements are straightforward and designed to make sure the woman’s and child’s rights are protected.

They explained the new law would allow an abortionist to schedule an abortion only after meeting with the pregnant mother and doing an assessment to make sure there is no coercion, then providing contact information and allowing at least 72 hours for the woman to meet with a “help center” that “cannot perform abortions or refer women for an abortion” for information on options regarding the pregnancy.

It the woman continues to want the abortion, “the doctor can proceed as long as the woman provides the date, place, center and name of the person who counseled her at the Pregnancy Help Center.”

Hunt said the state has a responsibility to oversee the provision of complete and accurate information regarding “that mother-child relationship” because it “obviously is important in our society.”

The law also deals with coercion from boyfriends, parents and other outside influences.

It requires the physician “do an assessment of the pregnant mother’s circumstances to make a reasonable determination whether the pregnant mother’s decision to submit to an abortion is the result of any coercion, subtle or otherwise.”

“We are protecting women’s rights rather than denying them,” said Hunt. “I would think among those rights is to be fully informed and to be able to make decisions without coercion.”

Leslee Unruh of the Alpha Center said the goal is that women have access to full information about the impact an abortion would have.

It addition to the requirement to be referred to a help center, the law also requires the abortionist to be available at the abortion establishment the day before the procedure to respond to questions a pregnant woman may have.

“It is a necessary and proper exercise of the state’s authority to give precedence to the mother’s fundamental interest in her relationship with her child over the irrevocable method of termination of that relationship by induced abortion,” the law explains.

The law specifies, “A pregnancy help center consulted by a pregnant mother considering consenting to an abortion, as a result of the provisions of this Act, shall be permitted to interview the pregnant mother to determine whether the pregnant mother has been subject to any coercion to have an abortion, and shall be permitted to inform the pregnant mother in writing or orally, or both, what counseling, education, and assistance that is available to the pregnant mother to help her maintain her relationship with her unborn child and help her care for the child both through the pregnancy help center or any other organization, faith-based program, or governmental program.”

It also explains, “‘Coercion’ exists if the pregnant mother has a desire to carry her unborn child and give birth, but is induced, influenced, or persuaded to submit to an abortion by another person or persons against her desire. Such inducement, influence, or persuasion may be by use of, or threat of, force, or may be by pressure or intimidation effected through psychological means, particularly by a person who has a relationship with the pregnant mother that gives that person influence over the pregnant mother.”

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