Will Draconian South Dakota Force Women to Visit Religious Pregnancy Centers Before Abortions?
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The South Dakota legislature was on the receiving end of a media frenzy this week when Rep. Phil Jensen introduced a bill that would allow a murderer to plead “justifiable homicide” if they killed anyone who threatened the fetus of a pregnant woman, a law many took to be declaring open season on abortion providers in the state.
The proposed law was shelved, but the assault on women's right to an abortion isn't over. Lost in the commotion is a more sinister law that is about to be voted on as well, which will mandate all women who want abortions must first undergo a counseling session with a representative at a crisis pregnancy center and prove that she is not being coerced into her decision.
HB 1217, which was introduced by Rep. Roger Hunt on January 31, seeks 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.”
According to the text of the bill , women who are seeking abortions are not “first meeting and consulting with a physician or establishing a traditional physician-patient relationship.” The bill then states that because of this, there is no one to screen the pregnant woman to ensure that it is really her idea to abort the fetus, and “Such practices are contrary to the best interests of the pregnant mother and her child and there is a need to protect the pregnant mother's interest in her relationship with her child and her health”.
In search of an answer to a non-existent problem, anti-choice legislators are proposing that before all women undergo an abortion, they need to be evaluated for signs of coercion. And according to the anti-choice politicians, the best person to make the final decision about the woman’s mental state isn’t a physician, a psychologist, or even a certified counselor. No, instead she should be evaluated by a paid employee or volunteer at one of the state’s anti-abortion, primarily Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers.
Should HB1217 pass, a woman wanting an abortion must first be screened by a physician before even making an appointment for the procedure. Following the screening, the physician must schedule the abortion at least 72 hours later, as well as provide the woman with a list of every crisis pregnancy center in the state. In order to obtain her abortion, the woman must return to the doctor with a signed statement from the center proving she received counseling.
“[P]rior to the day of any scheduled abortion the pregnant mother must have a consultation at a pregnancy help center at which the pregnancy help center shall inform her about what education, counseling, and other assistance is available to help the pregnant mother keep and care for her child, and have a private interview to discuss her circumstances that may subject her decision to coercion;
(b) That prior to signing a consent to an abortion, the physician shall 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.”
HB1217 introduces a variety of troubling factors when it comes to a women’s right to reproductive autonomy, not the least of which is the fact that religious-based crisis pregnancy centers would become the gatekeeper to whether or not a woman could actually receive her abortion.