When the South Dakota governor decided to sign H.B. 1217, the 72 hour mandatory waiting period and religious counseling bill, into law (behind closed doors, with only a short written statement released to the public), the near universal reaction to the bill was “So when’s the court date?”
Now, as NPR points out, the bill has finally become the one point where everyone on both sides of the abortion debate can agree: it goes too far.
When Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota signed into law Tuesday one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation, abortion-rights groups were quick to fill reporters’ inboxes with statements condemning the measure and promises to file suit.
The silence from nation’s largest anti-abortion groups, which you’d normally expect to match every statement, was notable.
It doesn’t take a lot of investigative reporting to figure out why. Both sides in the debate are pretty sure this particular law is likely to be found unconstitutional by the current Supreme Court, even if one side is loathe to admit it publicly.
Even some abortion foes aren’t keen on a case that would lead to the justices, once again, restating a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Even the governor himself appeared to agree, refusing to sign the bill until he found a “sponsor” willing to raise money to defend the bill in court (and how exactly that isn’t simply buying legislation is unclear). But the counseling bill’s anonymous financial fairy godmother isn’t the only one who will be bringing dollars to this fight. The bill has lit a fire under pro-choice activists to begin donating time and money to the cause, too.
“We have seen an increase in donations to Planned Parenthood and that’s deeply appreciated right now,” says Sarah Stoesz, executive director of Planned Parenthood of South Dakota. Her clinic is the only abortion provider in the state, and it is staffed about one day each week by doctors who fly in from other states. “It’s coming from across the country and not just in the state.”
NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota has also seen an uptick in activism, with their website traffic quadrupling in the past day.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from South Dakotans who are looking for ways to fight this latest outrage,” said Alisha Sedor, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota. “We will channel our activists’ energy into a campaign to engage South Dakotans about how this law harms women. Frankly, voters are just tired of legislators who keep devising more and more ways to intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship.”
More money is definitely going to be necessary in this case. The anonymous legal “sponsor” will be doing his fundraising, and it has to be assumed that the Unruh’s, the owners of the Alpha Center, a pregnancy help center that is benefiting already from the new law by providing trainings for other centers who want to be counselors to women who want abortions, will be willing to throw money to keep the bill alive, too. After all, Leslie Unruh appears to have a past of using money to further her anti-abortion agenda, according to the Daily Beast:
Leslee Unruh, a prominent figure in the Christian right who was at the forefront of the campaign for HB1217, has a history of coercion. She was once charged with offering girls money to carry unwanted pregnancies to term and then put their babies up for adoption; she ended up pleading down to five counts of unlicensed adoption and foster-care practices.
“There were so many allegations about improper adoptions being made [against her] and how teenage girls were being pressured to give up their children,” the state’s attorney told the Argus Leader in 2003. “Gov. George Mickelson called me and asked me to take the case.” (Dr. Unruh insists his wife settled in order to protect the privacy of girls whose confidential files would be exposed during a trial.)
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, the ACLU, and other organizations are all currently making plans on how to best proceed in legally challenging the bill, which otherwise would go into effect on July 1st.