Saturday, April 2, 2011

South Dakota Women Seeking Abortions Legally Subject To Anti-Choice Counseling

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) of South Dakota and his Republican-dominated Legislature have passed a law requiring that women seeking abortions must first be counseled at places like the Alpha Center (above). Does this enforced counseling encourage women to make the decision that’s personally best for them? How long must women wait to have an abortion? For which women does the law make exceptions? Are the counselors medical professionals? Here's what “small government conservatives” have in mind for this most private of women’s healthcare decisions:

The sign out front advertises free pregnancy tests, information about abortion and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. But it is not an abortion clinic — it is home to the Alpha Center, an organization in Sioux Falls, S.D., dedicated to encouraging women to bring their babies to term.

A law signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Tuesday makes the state the first to require women who are seeking abortions to first attend a consultation at such “pregnancy help centers,” to learn what assistance is available “to help the mother keep and care for her child.”

The legislation, which passed easily in a state Legislature where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 3 to 1, also establishes the nation’s longest waiting period — three days — after an initial visit with an abortion provider before the procedure can be done. It makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.

Many states require counseling from doctors or other clinic staff members before an abortion to cover topics like health risks. What makes the new South Dakota law different is that the mandated counseling will come from people whose central qualification is that they are opposed to abortion.

...Peggy Gibson, a Democratic state representative who voted against the measure, said the law amounted to “government intrusion into people’s medical decisions.”

“South Dakota women should not need to submit to an in-person lecture from an unqualified, noncertified, faith-based counselor or volunteer at an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center,” Ms. Gibson said.

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