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South Dakota bill mandates pregnancy help center counselling before abortion decision

To qualify as a pregnancy help centre, the organization must routinely meet with women "for the purpose of helping them keep their relationship with their unborn children."
Thu Feb 3, 2011 - 9:05 pm EST

PIERRE, South Dakota, February 3, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new South Dakota measure would require women to seek counselling from a pregnancy help center before procuring an abortion.

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The informed consent bill, HB 1217, was introduced Monday and aims to ensure that women who choose abortion do so voluntarily with accurate information.

The bill requires the woman to first meet the abortionist and fill out a survey on the physical and emotional risks of abortion, as well as specifying if there has been any coercion.  This consultation must take place at least 72 hours before the abortion.  If afterwards the woman believes the abortionist did not evaluate her properly, the bill allows her to hold him or her accountable.

Under HB 1217, the woman would have to certify prior to an abortion that she has sought counselling at a pregnancy help centre, where she must be told about the assistance and education available to help her “keep and care for her child.”

To qualify as a pregnancy help centre, the organization must routinely meet with women “for the purpose of helping them keep their relationship with their unborn children.”  They are not permitted to commit or refer for abortions at their facility or have any affiliation with organizations or physicians that commit abortions.

The bill, which was co-sponsored by 27 representatives and 11 senators, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  According to the pro-abortion site RH Reality Check, 8 of the 13 members of this committee sponsored the bill.

Valerie Johnson, education coordinator for South Dakota Right to Life, told LifeSiteNews.com that they support the bill and think numerous of its provisions will “greatly reduce” the number of abortions.

Johnson praised the idea to require women to visit a pregnancy resource centre, saying it will give the woman time to consider her decision.”  “Abortion facilities are set up to do abortions, and so of course they would probably tend toward an abortion decision,” she said.  “When they’re being counselled by an abortionist, they might not consider the option for life.”

Alisha Sedor, J.D., executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, told RH Reality Check that the South Dakota bill seems like “another attempt to restrict access to reproductive healthcare by intruding into the personal decisions of women in South Dakota.”

“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,” she added.

This week, however, the South Dakota legislature passed a resolution to honor the “compassionate” and “life-affirming” work of pregnancy care centers.

“The Legislature strongly supports pregnancy care centers in their unique, positive contributions to the individual lives of women, men, and babies, both born and unborn,” it reads.  They also disapproved of “the actions of any national, state, or local groups attempting to prevent pregnancy care centers from effectively serving women and men facing unplanned pregnancies.”

Pregnancy centres are an ongoing target of the pro-abortion movement, and have been subjected to restricting measures in several jurisdictions, including Baltimore, New York, and Washington State.  Last week, a US district judge ruled unconstitutional a Baltimore ordinance requiring the centers to post signs stating that they do not refer for abortions or contraception.


See the text of HB 1217 here.

See the resolution honouring pregnancy resource centers here.


  abortion, abortion coercion, pregnancy care centers

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