Enough Is Enough: The Latest South Dakota Attack on Women’s Access to Abortion Goes Too Far

By Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, and Robert Doody, Executive Director, ACLU of South Dakota

Recently, an extreme bill sailed through the South Dakota legislature, which places unprecedented restrictions on access to abortion care. This bill requires women to wait 72 hours between the first counseling session with the doctor and the abortion; it also requires women to first visit “crisis pregnancy centers,” entities that are notorious for providing false and misleading information; and requires doctors to tell the woman of any possible risk factor published in medical and psychological journals since 1972. These new restrictions are on top of the long list of abortion restrictions in South Dakota, and they also come from a state that tried to ban abortion outright twice in the last few years. These new attempts to restrict abortion are outrageous attempts to deny women basic health care services, and to shame and humiliate them. Enough is enough.

Nowhere else in the country have we seen these extreme measures. For example, although the Supreme Court has allowed states to force women to wait 24 hours between counseling and the abortion, never has a state enacted a law that requires her to wait 72 hours. And nowhere else in the country has a state mandated that a woman first visit a “crisis pregnancy center” or “CPC.” CPCs often lack licensed medical personnel, and are designed solely to “encourage” a woman to carry to term and keep her child. The federal government has documented that CPCs often provide women false and misleading information in order to achieve their goals. Furthermore, these new restrictions require physicians to tell their patients about risk factors from all journals that date back to 1972, nevermind that the information in those journals may be outdated, misleading, and irrelevant.

So what does this mean for women in South Dakota? Have you looked at the geography of South Dakota? It’s a big state. And there are very few doctors who provide abortions. And the way the law reads, a woman needs to see her doctor twice before the abortion procedure. Imagine you lived at the top of the state, far north of Sioux Falls. You’d first have to get to the physician in Sioux Falls, be counseled by the doctor, and listen to a litany of “risk factors” some of which may have nothing to do with you or may be so outdated that they aren’t even accurate. And then what? Drive all the way back home, only to turn around and make that same drive a couple of days later (assuming you have a car), only to do this all a total of three times? And what about taking time off from work? And child care? And on top of it all, in between the counseling session and the abortion, you have to visit a CPC and listen to speeches about the horrors of abortion, and receive misinformation such as abortion causes breast cancer and infertility.

And what if you had a wanted pregnancy, but tragically discovered that the pregnancy was doomed? Or what if you were pregnant as a result of rape or incest? All of these new requirements would apply to you too. This is because the legislature thinks it knows what is best for women. The South Dakota legislature specifically said that this bill is necessary “to protect the pregnant mother’s interest in her relationship with her child and her health by passing remedial legislation.” Wow. It’s like we’ve gone back in time about a century when women were treated like children, unable to make decisions for themselves.

These outrageous and extreme measures push the envelope to the detriment of women’s access to basic health care, and they are really designed to make them feel horrible for making a decision that may in fact be the best one for themselves and their families.

Of course, South Dakota is not alone in attempting to deny reproductive health care to women, and to humiliate them and shame them — are you watching what is going on in Congress and across the country? My colleagues have blogged about these issues here and here and here. This South Dakota bill is one attack on women in a long line of them. Enough is enough. These assaults on women’s health care must be stopped.

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  • crowepps

    In light of the Federal HIPPA law, I cannot imagine how any legislature can get away with a law that holds a person’s MEDICAL procedure hostage until they visit a NONmedical organization and are proselytized with religious views, particularly when there is no provision to protect their privacy.  There isn’t a thing in the world to  stop the CPC from taking their picture and publishing it in the paper under a banner headline reading “Murderous Slut”.  Just as previously CPCs have followed up on visits to their facilities by ‘outing’ the girls/women involved to their parents, husbands, pastors and school mates.  This is just absolutely ludicrous.

  • princess-jourdan

    I have wondered that same thing too, croweps.  There have been many documented instances of CPC’s gathering medical information from patients who visit them and then blabbing their patients’ private medical information to their families, employers, churches, schools, friends, etc. when the patient decides not to take the CPC’s crap advice to keep a pregnancy.  Even though these CPC’s aren’t licensed medical facilities, shouldn’t there be some law to punish them for disclosing private medical information about their clients?  Or are CPC’s not held to the HIPPA laws since they are not licensed medical facilities?

  • crowepps

    And CPC’s are not only not medical facilities, many of them are 100% professional free — even 100% EMPLOYEE free, and staffed by volunteers who can do anything they like without any repercussions.


    We’ve certainly seen how every attempt to clarify exactly what they are for the person walking up to the door has been met with claims that since they are religious they have a religious freedom right to lie to people.  Now that the legislature is requiring women to attend their ‘church services’, of course, they will probably say they are not religious at all, and have good SECULAR reasons to tell lies to people.


    Very glad the ACLU is on this.  This is just ludicrous.


  • ahunt

    The SD governor estimates that defending the legislation will cost between 1.75-4 million to defend.


    Asked about the potential cost of a lawsuit, Daugaard said Thursday that he considered any spending on a lawsuit to be a “one-time expense,” rather than ongoing expenses that he’s sought to cut. Daugaard has proposed a 10 percent cut to most state agencies to help close an estimated $127 million spending gap.

  • crowepps

    Because it’s MUCH more important to pay some lawyers a couple million bucks to take a case to the Supreme Court than it is to fund daycares or prenatal exams or frivolous things like that.

  • ahunt

    Since the legislation is DOA, I’m wondering if the people of SD will finally get fed up, and boot these morons from the statehouse. Check out the Mt Blogmore forum…for a sense of public mood.

  • ahunt



    As the creationism case in Dover, PA demonstrated…if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is very likely a duck. The CPCs will no doubt try to claim the counseling is not religiously besed…but that duck will still quack and waddle.


    Betting on epic fail.

  • crowepps

    Mt. Blogmore is interesting — it’s always nice to see what the locals think.  They’re the ones with the best view.