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Opponents of SD Abortion Bill Say Intimidation is the Goal

Government data shows that the number of abortions in the United States dropped by 24 percent from 2006 to 2015. (
Government data shows that the number of abortions in the United States dropped by 24 percent from 2006 to 2015. (
January 18, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation regarding abortion, but state legislators will consider a bill this session to make the procedure still more formidable.

Current state law says doctors must give women the "option" to view a sonogram before an abortion, but a new bill submitted to lawmakers would "require" that a woman be shown a sonogram and hear the fetus' heartbeat prior to the procedure.

The ACLU of South Dakota is opposed to the bill, with policy director Libby Skarin arguing it's similar to other bills meant to intimidate women.

"Many of the hallmarks that a lot of pieces of anti-abortion legislation in this state have had in the past, trying to insert the state even further into the doctor-patient relationship," says Skarin.

The bill also would change language in the statute to refer to any medical facility performing the procedure, as an "abortion facility." If signed into law, Skarin says the ACLU would consider a court challenge because the right to abortion is protected under the U.S. Constitution.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls is the South Dakota facility that offers elective abortions. And the state's other metropolitan area, Rapid City, is the nation's urban center farthest from an abortion clinic – 318 miles.

Skarin says in 2019, the Legislature should not be trying to coerce adult women.

"What I think, fundamentally, is about the idea that women don't know what they're doing when they make the choice to have an abortion, which is untrue and offensive that the state government thinks it needs to substitute its judgment for the judgment of a woman and her doctor," says Skarin.

A judge in Iowa heard arguments last month challenging a bill passed there in 2018 banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. A ruling is expected no later than February.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD