South Dakota Bill Would Require Women To Get Pre-Abortion Counseling

February 22, 2011 8:26 a.m.

Another abortion bill up for vote in the South Dakota House of Representatives would require women to obtain consent from their doctors before having an abortion, after the doctor determines that the decision is “voluntary, uncoerced, and informed.”

The bill would also require women to attend counseling sessions at a “pregnancy help center” before the doctor can give his consent, and to schedule the appointment at least 72 hours after that consultation.Under House Bill 1217, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last Monday by a vote of 9-3, a woman would have to go through several steps before being allowed to get an abortion.

First, she has to meet with a doctor. “No surgical or medical abortion may be scheduled except by a licensed physician and only after the physician physically and personally meets with the pregnant mother, consults with her, and performs an assessment of her medical and personal circumstances,” the bill says. In this consultation, the doctor must determine whether the woman has been under “coercion, subtle or otherwise,” when deciding to get an abortion.

The woman would then have to set up an appointment at a “pregnancy help center,” that offers counseling on what “education, counseling, and other assistance” she can get if she chooses to have the baby, as well as any “risk factors” that might be associated with an abortion. These centers could not perform abortions at their facilities, have an affiliation with a group or doctor who performs abortions, or ever refer pregnant women for abortions.

Once she completes these steps, a woman can sign a consent form and schedule her appointment for 72 hours later, assuming the doctor makes an “an independent determination” that the decision is “voluntary, uncoerced, and informed.”

Ruth Brown of Capital Journal writes that State Rep. Roger Hunt (R), who introduced the bill, “said allowing 72 hours to pass lets the woman reflect on what choice she makes — a vital part of the decision making.”

“Life is what we’re talking about here, the termination of life without real information, without informed consent,” Hunt said, according to the AP.

Hunt did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

Dem Rep. Peggy Gibson, who voted against the bill in committee, said:

When I see this bill, I see government interference. I see constitutional problems and because I am the only woman on this committee, I feel very offended that I, as a woman, cannot make my own medical decisions. Should men have to seek counseling before they get a vasectomy?

HB 1217 is scheduled for a vote Tuesday at 3PM EST.

South Dakota already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and received a slew of media attention last week after a bill passed out of committee which could have paved the way for defensible murder of abortion doctors under the state’s “justifiable homicide” laws. The law was soon shelved amid the scrutiny, with the bill’s chief backer saying it wasn’t his intent to legalize murder of abortion doctors.

Via Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones.

Late Update, 5:00PM EST: The House still hasn’t voted on the bill, and the receptionist at the South Dakota Legislature tells us it might have been bumped to the end of the agenda.

Late Late Update: The bill passed the House by a vote of 49-19.

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