South Dakota Governor Signs Sex-Selective Abortion Ban

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill Wednesday to punish any physician in the state who is found to perform sex-selective abortions, or an abortion that’s chosen based on the gender of the fetus—a practice that reproductive rights advocates say is not a concern in the state.

Under HB 1162, physicians who provide abortions will be required to ask women seeking an abortion a series of questions to determine if sex selection is a factor in their decision. While the bill imposes no penalty on women seeking an abortion based on the gender of the fetus, abortion providers could face a Class 6 felony, which carries up to a $4,000 fine and two years in prison. 

Jen Aulwes, a spokesperson at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said the organization’s clinic in Sioux Falls, which is the only abortion provider in the state, is not seeing patients seeking to terminate pregnancies based on the sex of the fetus. “This bill is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” she told RH Reality Check.

The legislation passed through the legislature with little opposition or discussion; the floor debate in the house was characterized by Rep. Paula Hawks (D-Hartford) as a “railroad discussion.” The bill was passed first by the house with a 60-10 vote, and then through the senate with a 30-5 vote.

During hearings about the legislation, bill proponents repeatedly brought up the supposed role that race and ethnicity play in sex-selective abortions.

During her testimony in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jenna Haggar (R-Sioux Falls), who introduced HB 1162, cited worldwide disparities in gender ratios, noting that such discrepancies are especially prevalent in “certain countries in Asia.”

“Let me tell you, our population in South Dakota is a lot more diverse than it ever was. There are cultures that look at a sex-selection abortion as being culturally okay,” said Sen. Don Haggar (R-Sioux Falls) during the senate floor debate.

Spencer Cody, vice president of South Dakota Right to Life, also testified, claiming that sex-selective abortion has become “a South Dakota problem.” However, Cody told Mother Jones that there is no “hard data” on the number of sex-selection abortions that are performed, and that “the question, if this [ban] would actually affect any South Dakotans, is one we can’t answer yet.”

Two studies have often been cited as proof that sex-selective abortions are a problem in the United States, specifically within immigrant communities of Southeast Asian descent. The studies used 2000 Census data, and found disparate sex-ratios among families with Chinese, Indian, and Korean ancestry. A 2012 Guttmacher Institute report written by Sneha Barot notes that the studies do not pinpoint the cause of the disparity, which could be “pre-pregnancy techniques involving fertility treatments or sex-selective abortions.” There is no data on the effect of the sex-selective abortion bans that have been passed in recent years, and no data on the effects of the bans that passed in Illinois and Pennsylvania, in 1975 and 1982, respectively.

Barot notes that attempts to enforce sex-selective laws “would only perpetuate further discrimination in … communities through stereotyping and racial profiling of Asian women whose motivations for an abortion would be under suspicion.” The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum has characterized this type of legislation as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The legislation’s proponents also say it was designed to prevent gender discrimination—something Planned Parenthood’s Jen Aulwes says the group is already opposed to.

“We don’t believe that this bill will accomplish anything to end gender bias,” said Aulwes. “We urge leaders to challenge the underlying conditions that lead to these types of beliefs and practices in the first place.”

Abbie Peterson, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, which opposed the legislation, told RH Reality Check that the law will just add to the list of questions South Dakota women must answer during the “interrogation” they must undergo when seeking an abortion. Peterson said the intent of the legislation is to target abortion providers with an increasingly stringent regulatory regime. “This is about creating the right number of restrictions and creating a hostile environment [for providers], so that they will not operate in the state,” she said.

With Gov. Daugaard’s signature, HB 1162 makes South Dakota the seventh state to ban sex-selective abortions. The number of states introducing and passing laws banning sex-selective abortions has increased in the last few years, with more than 60 pieces of legislation introduced since 2009. (Arizona sex-selective abortion is currently being challenged.)

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  • KingMeIam

    Good. This isn’t China.

  • R0chambeau

    There is no reason to not support this bill. None.

    • HeilMary1

      Many deadly syndromes are tied to the gender of the fetus, and female fetuses trigger lethal cancers in millions of women, so you are full of it.

      • R0chambeau

        “Many deadly syndromes are tied to the gender of the fetus”

        Name some.

        • Arekushieru

          Irrelevant and unnecessary. You are the one making the claim, y’know.

          • R0chambeau

            Nope. I never made the claim “Many deadly syndromes are tied to the gender of the fetus”

            Try again.

          • Arekushieru

            Not what I said.

            “The fetuses being selectively aborted tend to always be female. So it
            would seem that this legislation is anything but misogynistic. But
            don’t let that inconvenience get in your way. And it fights against that
            MALE coercion you were referring to. Open your eyes.”

            And, now you’re going to claim that you never made THIS claim?

    • goatini

      Wrong. You know as well as I it’s just another toe in the door to attempt to ban all safe, legal pregnancy terminations. You just lie about it while I tell the truth.

      This is just more misogynist grandstanding, when actual women know it’s a load of BS that is explicitly intended to be yet another chip away at the civil, human and Constitutional rights of female US citizens.

      • R0chambeau

        “This is just more misogynist grandstanding”

        The fetuses being selectively aborted tend to always be female. So it would seem that this legislation is anything but misogynistic. But don’t let that inconvenience get in your way. And it fights against that MALE coercion you were referring to. Open your eyes.

        • Arekushieru

          Wrong. It SUPPORTS the male coercion to which she was referring. But I wouldn’t expect a MALE to understand that.

          Women abort female fetuses BECAUSE males are preferred over females. WHY are males preferred over females? BECAUSE these societies grant women fewer rights than any other human population. WHY do (ALL but most especially middle eastern) women have fewer rights than any other human population? BECAUSE it is very SELDOM, if at ALL, that any rights but THEIRS end up being abrogated by legislation. WHY does it end up that women’s rights are the only ones that are ever abrogated by legislation? BECAUSE, whether legislation prevents women from seeking abortions OR, instead, bans sex-selective abortions outright, the woman’s body and her right to bodily autonomy are affected, NOT THE MAN’S.

          IOW, in order to ‘combat’ misogyny you are supporting legislation that harms ONLY women, who are the ONLY ones being deleteriously affected by misogyny. To put it even MORE succinctly, you are using misogyny to ‘combat’ misogyny. So, it looks like goatini: Gazillion; and R0Chambeau: Zip. Nada. Zilch. Big Fat Zero; once again.

          But don’t let THAT ‘inconvenience’ get in your way.

        • Ivy Mike

          Once again, support with evidence this claim that female fetuses, in the USA, are being selectively aborted. Without such evidence, the claims that this law is necessary are nonsense.

        • Unicorn Farm

          “tend to always” –> huh?
          Have you ever heard the phrase “I may disagree with what you have to say but I’ll defend your right to say it?” I may find certain types of speech vile (like yours) but I support your right to say your vile words. I may not like sex-selective abortions but it is not my right to tell other women why they may choose to have an abortion. See how that works?
          Further, this legislation is sexist and racist because it second-guesses the motivations of minority women, imputing misogyny to their actions.
          Another major problem with this law is that it opens up a new cause of action for anti-choice loons to exploit. That’s the beautiful thing about a law- it gives you a cause of action which allows you to file a complaint which allows you to engage in discovery, collect documents, drag someone’s name through the mud, and force them to incur legal fees.
          It creates one more threat of legal action that could result in punishment by the state that works to intimidate providers.

          • R0chambeau

            Sexual genocide is now “free speech?”

          • Lieutenant Nun

            Sounds kinky. And a step up from vanilla sexual sadism.

          • Unicorn Farm

            “Sexual genocide is now “free speech?””

            Right, that’s what I wrote. I know that this concept might be a bit advanced for someone who posts at Return of “Kings”, but I made what’s called an analogy.

            Say it with me- AN-AL-O-GEE.

        • goatini

          The patients being coerced into unwanted terminations are ALWAYS female. The problem is NOT access to what is a female US citizen’s civil, human and Constitutional right – the problem is illegal interference and coercion with women and their rights for “religious” reasons.

          Which seems to be, more and more, the REAL problem with reproductive justice and access to healthcare.

        • JamieHaman

          What do you think is going to happen to the women whose spuse/boyfriendl/husband’s family/own family is insisting on a gender based termination?
          You are not possibly so stupid as to think that they will take care of a pregnant woman carrying a girl child that NONE of them wants.
          You cannot possibly be so stupid as to think that that group of people pushing a woman into a gender based abortion are going to say “Oh
          gee, now it’s against the law. Everything will be peachy. We are going to have another girl.”
          If you are stupid enough to believe that, you must be made of concrete.

          • Plum Dumpling

            It may be an Autiste or a Sadist. Lots of them around.

          • JamieHaman

            Cruel concrete.

        • Plum Dumpling

          Source or it did not and does not happen.

    • expect_resistance

      It’s a gigantic waste of time.

    • Ivy Mike

      Then you should have no trouble providing evidence that sex-selective abortion is prevalent, or even occurs, in America. Reports from known lie-sites like Stanek’s sewer don’t count.

      We’ll wait.

    • Ivy Mike

      Three reasons pop to mind…

      1. It is unnecessary. No such problem exists in the US.

      2. It is merely another attempt to chip away at legalized abortion.

      3. It is yet another attempt by religious fanatics to reverse Roe v. Wade.

      Still waiting for you to provide evidence that sex-selective abortion is a problem in America.

  • Mindy McIndy

    How are they going to enforce this? All the pregnant woman would have to do is, you know, not state that the reason she was getting an abortion as being that she didn’t want a girl fetus. Or are they going to be targeting women of Asian descent and try to ban them from getting abortions because they are supposedly more likely to abort based on gender? More anti-choice nonsense.

    • expect_resistance

      It’s a completely stupid piece of legislation. What a waste of time and money. I doubt there is any way to enforce it.

  • Arekushieru

    There are MORE often men also coercing women into continuing a pregnancy, as through domestic partner violence, via contraceptive sabotage. (As an aside, WHY do you think it happens MORE frequently?) Many women also regret continuing a pregnancy and giving birth, and it is more likely that it is regret for the ACTUAL circumstances than it is in the case of abortion, this means the fact that the situation was not ‘ideal’ and therefore they regret the situation, ITSELF, not the abortion.

    The motivation for abortion is irrelevant. Do you ask someone who was raped what their motivation was for defending themselves from said rape? There are no mothers or babies involved in abortion. Pregnancy is not a mere ‘inconvenience’. Do you call rape a ‘walk in the park’? If not, you are a hypocrite, if yes, you are an amazingly SICK person. Why do people ‘need’ to defend themselves from rape, then? See, there’s just no way you can defend yourselves and come out looking intelligent. And women have known since the beginning of abortion (the first recording of which occurred 5000 years ago) what it entailed. Women ARE intelligent enough, despite the Conservative Pro-Life Republican Tea Party’s rallying cry, to figure out that they won’t have a cooing, gurgling, waving, peeing, pooping, crying live little human at the end of an abortion, I ASSure you.

    Lifeforall? Apparently not for the woman.

  • Ivy Mike

    “LifeForAll”, can we assume that you protest all wars? that you march (signs and pictures held high) to end capital punishment?

    If not, change your name. Then, grow up.

  • Lieutenant Nun

    Pregnancy can maim and kill. It is not a mere inconvenience.

  • Shan

    “It is encouraging to see the motivation for the abortion being questioned at all.”

    Absolutely not.

  • goatini

    The female patient is not making ANY “decisions”.

  • JamieHaman

    I wish you pro-life people would start harassing law makers as much as you do the women you are claiming to be forced into regretful decisions.
    Push lawmakers into paid maternity leave. Into paid lunches for children, to insisting minimum wage to be a living wage, so a singledivorced parent would not need to use federal or state funds to feed the child she would LIKE to keep, but can not afford to feed, cloth, educate, or insure on the current minimum wage, to insisting that we spend as much on education for our children as we spend on prisons, to insist that women earn the same amount of money as men for the same job, to insist that corporations clean up their oil spills, ash spills, to insist on a clean environment without mercury in the water, or particulate matter in the air.
    We want to see pro lifers insist that victim blaming stop, that men who rape women are stopped, that boys and men are no longer taught they are animals who cannot control themselves, if they see a woman who they believe is “asking for it” to be brutalized, beaten, raped, assaulted, because he thinks the clothing she wears is “not appropriate.”
    Pro choice people want pro-lifers, really forced birthers to insist that women who have children have them in a world that is safe for those children to breath the air, to drink the water, to eat every day, to get the medical treatment they require for a long and healthy productive life.
    Women who get abortions are very well aware of the reasons they get those abortions.
    In point of fact, a woman pushed, coerced into getting an abortion is a woman who is being abused. Do you see that? Pro choice women and men see it very clearly.
    Pro-choice women and men see the denial of basic human standards for living, in this, the richest country in the world. We see how dammed unfair it is to insist an unborn child is worth more than his mother. We see you don’t give a dam about a mother’s situation, her health or her reality.
    Want more women to have children?
    Address the issues that cause women to have an abortion. See all of the above.