Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New S. Dakota Law Forces Women Seeking Abortions To Undergo Anti-Abortion 'Counseling' - UPDATED



A law signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Tuesday makes the state the first to require women who are seeking abortions to first attend a consultation at such “pregnancy help centers,” to learn what assistance is available “to help the mother keep and care for her child.” 

The legislation, which passed easily in a state Legislature where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 3 to 1, also establishes the nation’s longest waiting period — three days — after an initial visit with an abortion provider before the procedure can be done. It makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. 

Many states require counseling from doctors or other clinic staff members before an abortion to cover topics like health risks. What makes the new South Dakota law different is that the mandated counseling will come from people whose central qualification is that they are opposed to abortion. 


So if a 14-year-old girl is pregnant because she is raped by a male family member, she must wait 3 days and undergo "counseling" by an abortion opponent about how she can care for the child. Great. Just great.

The president of the local Planned Parenthood said it better than I ever could:


Sarah Stoesz, president of the local Planned Parenthood chapter, said the clinic was careful to ensure that patients were making the decision themselves, sometimes turning away a woman who appeared to be making the decision under pressure. 

In contrast, she said, employees at the pregnancy help centers have a record of providing misinformation about the physical and psychological risks associated with the procedure and use tactics like displaying graphic photos or quoting scripture to influence a woman’s decision. 

“They’re not licensed, they’re not regulated, they’re not accredited and they’re openly ideological,” Ms. Stoesz said. 


Please note that in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court did not rule in favor of my position, nor did it rule in favor of an abortion opponent's position: it ruled in favor of a woman's right to control her own body. If a woman disapproves of abortion, no one can force her to have one. But it is her decision.

Several abortion opponents over the years (by chance, all were Catholic) have argued with me that I simply have not thought out the moral issues involved. There is not much I can do to convince them that I have thought the matter over, very carefully and with serious attention to all issues including moral ones... and I have come to the opposite conclusion from theirs. This is America. For those people, it is a religious matter. There is no consensus on abortion in America... and there is no right to legislate other people's behavior in matters of religion. In a very real sense, the establishment clause of the First Amendment protects a woman's right to choose abortion or childbirth. Yes, it is that simple.

I cannot imagine this law will pass constitutional muster. But one wonders how many S. Dakota women will suffer and perhaps even die carrying their rapists' babies while a challenge works its way through the courts. Now that is a moral issue.

UPDATE:  Amanda Marcotte takes it a step further, and points out what should have been obvious to me but wasn't: the anti-abortion lectures women must listen to are delivered by religious organizations. Can you spell "separation of church and state," children? I knew you could! H/T ellroon.


  1. "to learn what assistance is available" Such as the Republican plan to cut food subsidies to 8 million single mothers and their children and oh, defund Planned Parenthood. One wonders when the migrations from these neo-feudal states will begin.

  2. mandt, the very people most afflicted by GOP efforts to cut off all sorts of assistance... including reproductive health services (apart from abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood... are the same people who probably lack the funds to move to a more civilized state. And in one sense, all states are now neofeudal; there's no place a woman could move with any confidence that her fundamental rights will be respected in the long term.

    Ironically, Sarah Weddington, in her autobiography A Question of Choice, warned us that Roe would be assaulted, could be overturned at some point, and was in and of itself insufficient protection for a woman's right to choose abortion. Today, with a Supreme Court including six Catholics, I believe the time of that overthrow may be nearing. I am less than optimistic at this point.



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