Planned Parenthood, ACLU Sue South Dakota Over New Abortion Restrictions

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU today filed suit against the state of South Dakota over new requirements that would force women to wait at least three days before obtaining an abortion, and seek approval from religious pregnancy centers.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, in partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of American and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed suit today against the state of South Dakota and Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard over a recent law passed in the state legislature that would require a woman to wait at least three days in order to obtain an abortion in the state, and force her to visit and receive counseling from mostly religious non-medical crisis pregnancy centers prior to the procedure.

H.B 1217, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2011, would require all women who want to terminate a pregnancy to first have an appointment with the doctor that would perform the abortion, but not be allowed to proceed with the actual abortion until at least three days had passed and the woman provides written proof that she had met with a representative at a non-medical crisis pregnancy center in the state.

Planned Parenthood and its allies in the lawsuit call the new law overly intrusive, and demand that it not go into effect. 

“The voters of South Dakota, by resounding measures at the ballot box, twice have told their legislators that the decision to have an abortion is between a woman, her family and her doctor, and that government should not intrude on that decision,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “This law goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship, and putting women and families at risk.”

PPFA attorney Mimi Liu agreed, stating “The Act has both the purpose and the effect of severely restricting access to health care, and violates patients’ and physicians’ First Amendment rights against compelled speech and patients’ right to privacy in their personal and medical information.”

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, concludes that the new law is a extreme form of governmental overreach, as well as potential gender discrimination.  “It is demeaning for the government to force a woman to visit a non-medical facility with a political agenda when she is making one of the most personal medical decisions of her life,” she said. “We hope the court will stop the law from going into effect.”

Local pregnancy centers, many of whom enthusiastically lobbied for the mandatory counseling ban in the first place, have now backed out of registering as a qualified center able to counsel and approve patients for abortions during the three day wait.  Meanwhile, anti-choice activists have been continuing to solicit donations to defend themselves in the impending lawsuit.  Without the lawsuit, if no centers register, the state will have effectively banned abortion via legislation.