South Dakota Seeks to Force Women into 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. 

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  • squirrely-girl

    Way to go South Dakota – force women to obtain rather extensive WRITTEN PROOF of “counseling” from religiously affiliated, unlicensed “volunteer” groups that DO NOT refer for abortion services BEFORE they can obtain a LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE. Oh, and did you mean the same groups that LIE to women and delay or refuse to provide pregnancy test/ultrasound results to women if they think they’ll use the results to obtain an abortion?


    ‘Cause that wasn’t too hard to see through :/


    What new kind of willful retardation needs to be documented for the DSM-V? Why do “legislators” purposefully waste tax-payer time and money producing this type of blatantly UNCONSTITUTIONAL crap? And why do the voters continue to allow it? 


  • ldan

    Are these places going to be subject to HIPAA regulations? Because at the moment they are not, which is problematic enough given that they try to masquerade as medical entities where women would have a reasonable expectation of medical privacy. But forcing women to basically give up medical information (the fact that they’re pregnant plus whatever they might say in ‘counseling’) to non-medical entities is just gross.


    Seriously, if the right to abortion could be decided upon by the Supreme Court on the basis of privacy, how the hell is this sort of requirement legal? We don’t require people to get counseling for any other major life decision. (My recollection is that even the counseling required for things like gender reassignment surgery and gastric bypass surgery are mandated by medical standards not state laws.) We certainly don’t require them to get counseling that includes medically inaccurate information for a medical procedure.


    Should we make sure that people with cancer are counseled regarding the availability of homeopathic cancer treatment and its (nonexistant) success rate before they undergo chemotherapy?

  • jrm83

    I’m just wondering, how  a woman is actually supposed to get proof that she visited a CPC.  The whole reason for CPCs to exist is to try to stop women from having abortions.  Do these people honestly believe that if a woman says she needs a written statement confirming that she visited the CPC in order to obtain an abortion, the CPC staff will just go, “Here’s your statement.  Sorry we couldn’t talk you out of it?”


    What about women who need an abortion because the pregnancy puts there life/health at risk?  Are they all expected to travel out of state now?  Or are they just supposed to pray they can find a staff member at a CPC who actually believes they need one for health reasons, and doesn’t just assume they are a lying, baby-killing slut who doesn’t want to take responsibility?

  • silphium

    jrm83 brings up an interesting point of how the CPC makes potentially deadly assumptions that every abortion must be counseled away.  Let’s say a CPC counsels someone who was considering abortion, stalls or otherwise interferes with the woman’s decision, and she agrees to hold off on the procedure.  Since she hasn’t received any actual attention from an OB/GYN, she’s unaware of pre-existing condition — be it likelihood for gestational diabetes, a narrow pelvis that could complicate childbirth, or any of a host of things that could go terribly wrong with her or her fetus. 

    If the CPC is required to screen for a MEDICAL condition but fails to refer the woman to a specialist for complications which can be fatal, that same CPC is at fault for endangering the woman’s life.  A properly equipped MEDICAL facility — be it at a women’s health clinic or an MD’s office, could diagnose troublesome conditions and prevent tragedies before it’s too late.

    After all that’s said and done, South Dakota, does it even make sense to HAVE crisis pregnancy centers that seem to only serve to counsel women away from abortion when abortion is what they want, perhaps even what they need?

  • saltyc

    No you can’t rely on CPC’s to provide a woman what she needs to get an abortion, not when they’re staffed by the Jill Staneks, who say that lying, beating and otherwise manipulating a woman is great if it’s done to prevent an abortion, and they have been documented as doing things like telling women they’re not pregnant when they are, not as far along as they are, telling them they can get an abortion later than is legal, stalking, harassing, whatever it takes to stop a woman from exercising her legal right. This law would be their orgasmic dream come true to force more women into unwanted childbirth than they already do.

  • ldan

    Indeed an excelent point. I’m pretty sure that any indication that one still wanted an abortion would be ‘evidence’ that they hadn’t *really* understood the propaganda they were being fed. So they couldn’t sign off that they’d been properly counseled.


    Assuming they bothered to sugarcoat a rationalization at all.


    I suspect they’re aiming at a law that can go to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe. The egg as person ones aren’t making it even as far as becoming laws to challenge, so they’re aiming at something a bit more likely to pass. I mean, this is the state that tried to ban all abortions a few years back. This is every bit as unconstitutional, and works to effectively ban all abortions. But since it doesn’t come right out and say that, maybe they’re hoping it’ll slip by and have to be challenged?

  • ahunt

    Can this pass constitutional muster? Paging legal types.

  • rachel-larris

    I’m not a legal-type but considering the religious-affiliation and nature of most CPCs’ literature, there were be a very hard challenge on church-state separation. Some CPCs would immediately try to clean up their materials so they don’t make quite so many references to Jesus but places like Heartbeat International I think specifically say they are a Christian organization.

  • tiffany-campbell

    According to some legal minds this bill is unconstitutional, but SD lawmakers have proven in the past to not care.  In enacted HB 1217 places “undue burden” on women wanting to obtain an abortion.  Undue burden was clearly defined in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.

  • arekushieru

    I am ashamed to be associated with you, now, South Dakota….

  • seymourglass

    Must these CPC’s then disclose to “patients” that their primary purpose is to dissuade women from having abortions?  Must they admit that they lie, harass, and intimidate?  Must they admit that they think medical facts are simply issues of opinion open to debate?

  • lepidopteryx

    What’s to stop the CPC from stating that they believe the woman is being coerced, and using that lie to stop her from receiiving an abortion?

  • datasnake


    not when they’re staffed by the Jill Staneks, who say that lying, beating and otherwise manipulating a woman is great if it’s done to prevent an abortion, and they have been documented as doing things like telling women they’re not pregnant when they are, not as far along as they are, telling them they can get an abortion later than is legal, stalking, harassing, whatever it takes to stop a woman from exercising her legal right.


    Holy shit, is that ever not acceptable. Assault, harassment, and stalking are wrong and, for that matter, ILLEGAL. If you know a woman who’s had that kind of treatment from the anti-choice types, call the cops and see if you can get the scumbag responsible off the street. I don’t care if it’s another woman beating her, it’s STILL completely wrong and anyone who tries to control another person through fear and violence belongs in JAIL.