Is South Dakota Mandating Coercing Women Out Of Abortion?

H.B. 1217, the South Dakota bill that will mandate all women wait 72 hours to have an abortion and visit faith-based pregnancy centers for “coercion” evaluations before the procedure, is seen by some to simply be putting women in another abusive situation — fighting against coercion to not have an abortion.

In a powerful story about how counseling should really work, Yvonne Hawkins’s editorial tells about her experience as a chaplain talking to a pregnant teen, hospitalized and scared.  When the teen asked her whether she should abort, Hawkins did not tell her to abort, or to continue her pregnancy, but instead spoke with her for days about her options and choices.  In the end, the girl decided on her own to continue the pregnancy.

Via the Argus Leader:

I don’t know whether the same would happen if a South Dakota woman was mandated to visit a pregnancy help center before having an abortion, a requirement that will become state law if Gov. Dennis Daugaard signs recently passed legislation.

For that matter, I don’t know that it wouldn’t.

The legislation’s supporters say the bill’s necessity is a matter of protecting a woman from being coerced into having an abortion.

And I agree that a woman has the right to protection from coercion. That includes coercion from all potential sources – coercion from family members, spiritual leaders, abortion opponents, friends, boyfriends, abortion-rights advocates and anyone else who feels the need to unduly press an opinion one way or another.

The decision to have an abortion or not, after all, is one of the most critical choices a woman can make.

So the question facing the governor is this: Is a South Dakota woman assured protection from coercion from everyone if he signs this bill?

Pro-choice is about respecting and supporting a woman’s decision regardless of which outcome she chooses.  Those who truly value reproductive rights do not coerce.  It’s a shame that the anti-choice faction cannot say the same.

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  • crowepps

    Actually, if you read Section 6 of the bill, there are holes there big enough to drive a truck through, in particular the very end where it’s made clear that the “pregnancy help center” doesn’t have ANY duties and is immune from liability.  Just a few highlights:

    The “pregnancy help center” is  “permitted to interview the pregnant mother” but has no obligation to do so in a timely manner.  Maybe they don’t have any appointments open until, you know, three months from now. 


    “The pregnancy help center is under no obligation to communicate with the abortion provider in any way, and is under no obligation to submit any written or other form of confirmation that the pregnant mother consulted with the pregnancy help center.” 


    “Any written statement or summary of assessment prepared by the pregnancy help center as a result of counseling of a pregnant mother as a result of the procedures created by this Act, may be forwarded by the pregnancy help center, in its discretion, to the abortion physician.”


    Note that the inclusion of the words ‘voluntary’ and ‘in its discretion’ mean they are not REQUIRED to send anything at all.  Which, of course, makes it impossible for the doctor to CONFIRM that the woman has followed the law and had the required appointment and means there won’t be any document in the file that will allow him to defend against an accusation.


    “The pregnancy help center may voluntarily provide a written statement of assessment to the abortion provider, whose name the woman shall give to the pregnancy help center” allowing the ‘pregnancy health center’ to call up their goons and let them know which clinic they should picket, and which doctor they should go harass, or shoot.

    And in particular see the end of paragraph 9, “No patient or other person responsible for making decisions relative to the patient’s care may waive the requirements of this chapter” which means that if your 9-year old is pregnant, you as the parent are not allowed to make the decision for her, but instead you must send her ALONE into a so-called ‘counseling session’ with an obsessive fanatic.

    And then there’s “the pregnancy help centers, their agents and employees, may not discuss with the pregnant mothers religion or religious beliefs, either of the mother or the counselor” which is blatantly unconstitutional as an infringment on religious liberty and unenforceable on its face.