South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard
A plan to require abortionists to refer potential patients to state-approved pro-life pregnancy help centers for “the other side of the story” before performing any procedure has been signed into law by South Dakota’s governor, and state officials have been assigned the task of planning for its implementation and enforcement.
Supporters call the bill a precedent-setter that is one of the most significant pieces of legislation since Roe v. Wade in 1973 and say they have lined up volunteer donors to fund the cost of the state’s defense of the law should the abortion industry challenge it in court.
In the signing message from Gov. Dennis Daugaard, he said, “everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives. I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”
The plan, which earlier sailed through the state legislature, is “An Act to establish certain legislative findings pertaining to the decision of a pregnant mother considering termination of her relationship with her child by an abortion, to establish certain procedures to better insure that such decisions are voluntary, uncoerced, and informed, and to revise certain causes of action for professional negligence relating to performance of an abortion.”
Daugaard said he consulted with state Attorney General Marty Jackley over the plan and was informed supporters, including prime sponsor state Rep. Roger Hunt, had arranged for private funds to be committed to finance the state’s defense if needed, so that the bill would not impact Daugaard’s efforts to balance the budget.
Mathew Staver, founder and chief of Liberty Counsel, said the law is a “huge precedent” that moves America “in the right direction to return us to a respect for the sanctity of life.”
He said he expects abortionists will not take the requirement lightly, but he feels it can be supported constitutionally, and it even could be a dispute that could reach as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, with a possible change of precedent there.
Those who argue against the law, he noted, will have to be arguing against providing full and complete information to women.
If that happens, he said, “abortionists are going to be revealed for what they really believe, that women essentially should be duped into having abortions.”
Hunt earlier told WND HB 1217 is 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.
That bill, affirmed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 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.
Daugaard said Department of Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth has been tasked with implementing and enforcing the new law even though a legal challenge is expected because of the precedent it sets.
Officials for the Planned Parenthood division that operates in South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota declined to respond to a WND request for comment.
But Dr. Allen Unruh of Sioux Falls, who worked on the plan and spearheaded the efforts to raise commitments for nearly $300,000 from private donors for its defense, called it “the most pro-life legislation since Roe V. Wade in 1973.”
He said it “protects the women of South Dakota and their unborn children. It is designed to put an end to coerced abortion. And it finally allows women the opportunity to be well-informed and learn all the facts of abortion, other than the biased information given by Planned Parenthood.”
He said already activists in several other states have contacted him about the legislation with questions.
“This sets a standard for other states,” the doctor said. “We’ve had a holocaust of 53 million abortions. Tens of thousands of women have been victimized by coerced abortion. … Nobody should be forced to kill their unborn child against their will.”
He said the plan’s supporters are ready for a court argument over the law.
“We welcome a legal challenge,” he said. “They have to defend [giving women only the choice of abortion]. We’re trying to get women [additional] choices. They’re the ones trying to take away that choice.”
Leslee Unruh of the Alpha Center counseling program said that among the goals is to give women access to full information about the impact an abortion would have.
In a statement about the new law, she said, “Just one woman being coerced to have an abortion is too many.”
The state’s earlier law dictates the specific words that must be used by Planned Parenthood business operators to inform a woman the abortion terminates the life of her child. The state subsequently threatened sanctions against Planned Parenthood when it decided to interpret the law to its own benefit and substituted its own “warning” to patients.
Hunt told WND that the new law 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.
The new guidelines would require referrals to state-approved pregnancy help centers, which cannot provide abortions or refer for them. The law also requires that a doctor meet personally with a woman before the abortion can be scheduled and establishes a wait of 72 hours before the life of the unborn child can be ended. It also requires an affirmation that no one is forcing the woman to have an abortion.
Staver earlier said, “This bill provides women in South Dakota with a variety of resources not previously available. With the assistance of an independent physician and pregnancy help center expectant mothers can be better informed of this life-altering decision. Those who really care about women will enthusiastically endorse this bill.”
Liberty Counsel explained that in South Dakota, all abortions are done by out-of-state abortionists who fly in in the morning and usually depart by evening.
“The doctor only spends about five to seven minutes total with each woman and meets them for the first time only after the woman has undressed for the abortion,” the organization explained. “Women who come to the clinic are required to sign a consent form for the abortion and even pay for the procedure as a precondition to seeing the so-called ‘patient educator’ for counseling.”
The law states 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 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.”