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Bill Amends Abortion Counseling Bill Held Up In Court

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A Senate committee is passing along a bill that amends provisions to the state’s mandatory third-party pre-abortion counseling.

Senate Bill 110 permits those counselors to provide additional information for those seeking an abortion.

However, the law that bill is amending is currently on hold in the courts.

Senate Bill 110 does something unique that most legislation in the state house does not. It places legislative findings, which are generally reserved for resolutions and concurrent resolutions, into state statute. Those findings were claims about the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls.

The legislative findings allege disclosures by the facility include a statement that “Politicians in the State of South Dakota require us to tell you…” and so on.

Harold Cassidy is an attorney from New Jersey who has helped South Dakota lawmakers draft several anti-abortion bills. He is also involved in a court case the state is defending. That law requires mandatory counseling during a 72 hour waiting period for those seeking an abortion.

He says the mandatory counseling is necessary because the question whether to keep a child is not a medical question. He says Planned Parenthood physicians shouldn’t be involved in that discussion.

“They have no expertise to help the woman make that decision. They’re there to give abortions, that’s it,” Cassidy says. “This does not create the mandatory third party counseling, that’s already law. Because it’s limited counseling, this bill just adds a couple more areas that they’re permitted to go into that only effect the woman’s preliminary question of whether she should or should not keep her relationship.”

SB 110 clarifies that counseling may not discuss religious beliefs or physical or psychological risks to a woman posed by an abortion. Women may seek that counseling if they wish.

Libby Skarin is the policy director for the ACLU in South Dakota. She says the law forces a women who has already made her decision about an abortion to go to a non-medical clinic.

“To have a conversation that she does not want to have with a counselor she does not want to meet with. If we take a step back and think about that idea, in any other circumstance, would we allow the government to force someone who is seeking medical care to go to a separate facility that is morally opposed to that person’s decision and force them to talk to that councilor.”

Skarin says the bill say it’s extraneous language meant to rally the anti-abortion base during an election year. She says the bill will only extend the life of the court case and cost South Dakotans additional tax payer money.