South Dakota Seeks to Force Women into Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Anti-choice South Dakota legislators have introduced a bill that would force women considering abortion to go to crisis pregnancy centers.

South Dakota is no stranger to the fight to keep abortion safe and legal for women who choose to terminate a pregnancy.  South Dakota voters overwhelmingly voted to keep abortion legal in 2006 and 2008.  Yet 27 state representatives and 11 state senators are once again trying to restrict access to abortion in a state that already has the most stringent restrictions in the country.

House Bill 1217 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.”

I’m sure everyone on both sides of this issue can agree that every decision to have an abortion should be made voluntarily and uncoerced.  Of course women should be informed of the risks, but what type of risks can be associated with abortion is the question. Buried in HB 1217 it states:

“That prior 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.  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.”

You read that correctly, women wanting an abortion will be FORCED to visit pregnancy help center, otherwise known as a crisis pregnancy center. Many of these centers are not regulated by a government agency and are routinely staffed by volunteers who lack any type of training. 

The bill also defines a CPC such that it is virtually impossible for a pro-choice organization to establish a CPC.  From HB 1217:

“The pregnancy help center has a facility or office in the state of South Dakota in which it routinely consults with women for the purpose of helping them keep their relationship with their unborn children; that one of its principal missions is to educate, counsel, and otherwise assist women to help them maintain their relationship with their unborn children; that they do not perform abortions at their facility, and have no affiliation with any organization or physician which performs abortions; that they do not now refer pregnant women for abortions, and have not referred any pregnant women for an abortion at any time in the three years immediately preceding July 1, 2011.”

In 2006 the Congressionally-funded Waxman report, False and Misleading Health Information Provided by Federally Funded Pregnancy Resource Center found 87 percent of the centers contacted provided false and misleading information about a link between abortion and breast cancer, the effect of abortion on future fertility and the mental health effects of abortion.

Last fall the National Institute for Reproductive Health coupled with NARAL Pro-Choice New York released the findings of their report, The Lies, Manipulations, and Privacy Violations of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in New York City.  Their report came to the same conclusion as did the Waxman report, it states:

“Nearly every CPC investigated provided misleading-or sometimes entirely false- information about abortion, either through websites, written materials, or counseling sessions.”

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, Inc., the grassroots coalition made up of groups and individuals that are committed to fighting attempts to ban or restrict access to abortion, have vowed to help defeat HB 1217.  Jan Nicolay, President of SDCHF says:

We are still going through the content of the this bill and will provide a more complete statement once that process is complete. However, we believe that HB 1217 amounts to an unnecessary restriction on reproductive healthcare in our state.

This bill is a government mandate that women seeking a specific medical procedure be required to undergo a particular type of counseling from someone who is not their doctor of choice and is not required to have medical certification of any kind.

It is government intrusion into private medical decisions at its worse.” 

Alisha Sedor, J.D., Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota had the following to say:

We reserve our official statement for a later date as our analysis of the bill is incomplete.  However, HB 1217 seems to be another attempt to restrict access to reproductive healthcare by intruding into the personal decisions of women in South Dakota.

NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota believes that all individuals seeking health-care services should receive comprehensive, unbiased, medically and factually accurate information.  This information is best obtained from the doctor that person chooses to consult.  Expectant mothers should make decisions about their pregnancy with their doctors, determining what is best for themselves and their families.

“Requiring a woman to receive counsel from someone other than her chosen medical provider regarding her medical decisions is the worst kind of government intrusion,” Sedor said, echoing Nicolay. “This is what HB 1217 aims to do.”

At this time HB 1217 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, and has no scheduled hearing.  Eight of the 13 members of the Judiciary committee are co-sponsors of this atrocious bill.  Only four of the committee members have been identified by NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota as being pro-choice. And those who are see the situation very differently than their anti-choice colleagues, critiquing the effort to reopen abortion debates at a time of great state crises.

State Rep. Marc Feinstein, a third-term Democrat serving District 14 of Sioux Falls and one of four identified pro-choice members on the House Judiciary committee said:

One of the reasons I ran for another term is because I think our focus in Pierre should be on fixing our state budget crisis and fortifying our commitment to education, not bickering over social issues. Proposals to outlaw abortion have been put directly to the people of South Dakota as ballot measures in two separate elections–in 2006 and 2008. Both times, South Dakota voters soundly rejected this type of government intrusion into our personal lives. HB 1217 proposes the state legislature act as an investigative body which pries into the incredibly personal and often gut-wrenching decisions some pregnant women face. I believe that is not our role, and therefore I will vote against this bill and encourage my fellow committee members to do the same.

“Good people can disagree on the issue of abortion,” says Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, “but the people of South Dakota have made it clear, twice, where they stand on this issue.  At a time when we are facing a budget crisis, the legislature should be focusing on more important issues.”

The South Dakota legislators who have attached their names to this bill do not care about women, they only seek to make decisions for them. HB 1217 isn’t about making sure women receive informed consent before obtaining an abortion; they only want to make sure they can’t have one.