South Dakota Governor Signs 72-Hour, No Weekends Waiting Period Into Law


South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a bill that forces women to wait three days before they can obtain an abortion in the state; under the law, weekends and holidays do not count toward that waiting period.

South Dakota now has the longest waiting period in the country. The state has one abortion clinic.

The bill was proposed as a companion to a piece of legislature that was passed in 2011 requiring women to both wait 72 hours and visit a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) for “coercion screening” before obtaining an abortion. The portion of the 2011 law that would have forced women to visit CPCs prior to obtaining an abortion was blocked by a judge who called it “humiliating and degrading.”

Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) introduced this new legislation to assist CPCs he worried would be inconvenienced by being open over weekends or otherwise might need to adjust their hours to offer counseling, despite that not being legally required at this point. “It’s wise for us doing the counseling to be fully staffed. The weekdays, we are. Weekends, it’s hard to get people away from the weekends with their families,” complained Alpha Center Medical Director Dr. Glenn Ridder, whose CPC is hoping to screen women under the law.

“We are very disappointed that the state has chosen to further burden women with medically unnecessary waiting restrictions on abortion,” Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, told Reuters.

The local Planned Parenthood, which is the state’s sole abortion provider, announced prior to the bill’s passage that, if the bill passed, the group may no longer be able to perform abortions in the state. In December, the organization asked judges to drop its challenge to the original 72-hour waiting period, choosing to focus on the forced CPC-visit portion of the law. That request was neither granted nor denied, leaving the state’s original 24-hour waiting period in effect.

Utah is the only other state in the country to have a waiting period longer than 24 hours. However, Utah’s 72-hour waiting period does count weekends and holidays.

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