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Opponents of SD's Latest Abortion Law Predict More Lawsuits

The Guttmacher Institute says South Dakota has some of the country's most restrictive laws for ending pregnancies. (crazyfilmgirl/Flickr)
The Guttmacher Institute says South Dakota has some of the country's most restrictive laws for ending pregnancies. (crazyfilmgirl/Flickr)
March 9, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Opponents of a bill that requires abortion providers to use language drafted by the South Dakota Legislature when patients seek help from the state's only clinic that offers abortion services predict it will be challenged in court.

Senate Bill 110 was signed by Gov. Dennis Dugaard on Wednesday. Clinic providers are now required to tell patients, "Abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," and they are also prohibited from saying, "The State Legislature requires us to say that."

Backers of the bill felt that providers potentially adding that disclosure would suggest the information wasn't valuable.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health and research policy group, says her organization views the new law as political speech.

"They will not be able to say that, 'We're being directed to tell you this by the State Legislature.' So, it will sound and look to an abortion patient that this information is coming from the provider directly, when it fact it's not – it's coming from the State Legislature," says Nash.

The bill's sponsors say the additional law will ensure that women seeking abortions have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

Nash is concerned that the new law could undercut the doctor-patient relationship.

"We all want to get accurate and relevant information about our situation, our treatment options and the risks and benefits,” she says. “We don't need to be misled by politicians."

Legislation signed by the governor in 2011 requires women to visit a "pregnancy help center," where they might be talked out of ending a pregnancy. But that law is tied up in the courts, and Nash predicts a similar fate for the new one.

"Some of these court cases take a very long time,” she says. “It just flies in the face of anything remotely approaching appropriate health care, because this is political speech, not health care."

A South Dakota Planned Parenthood spokesperson said the organization was disappointed but not surprised by the bill's passage, and urged lawmakers to turn their attention to other issues.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD