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South Dakota's Harsh New Abortion Law Fits National Trend

Olga Khazan |
March 22, 2011 | 3:56 p.m. PDT

Senior Editor

South Dakota passed a law today requiring women who want abortions to wait three days after consulting a doctor and to visit anti-abortion counseling centers. The move is part of a wave of anti-abortion legislation recently introduced in other states legislatures and in Congress as pro-life activists find themselves in a "perfect storm" of sympathetic public sentiment.

Although half the states currently have 24-hour waiting periods, the South Dakota bill enacts the longest waiting period in the U.S. between the time a woman sees her doctor and the time she gets the procedure.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, said in a statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

Granted, the law isn't as severe as another measure the state was considering, which would have legalized killing abortion providers.  However, it may not be as pure-intentioned as Daugaard claims. A Congressional investigation into abortion counseling centers in 2006 found that they "provide false or misleading information about the health risks of an abortion"—alleging ties between abortion and breast cancer, negative impacts on fertility, and mental-health concerns," writes Mother Jones.

Planned Parenthood intends to challenge the law, saying, "We all want strong, safe families in which every child has a chance to thrive and prosper.  But South Dakota politicians persist in putting women and families at risk, intruding on personal decisions, and violating of voters’ trust."

South Dakota is one of many state legislatures working to make it harder for women to end unwanted pregnancies.

The Arizona Senate today passed a measure "that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion sought based on the sex or race of the fetus." Across the country, more than 800 reproductive health bills have been introduced in state legislatures since January, reports RNN. Many of them aim to eradicate the right to choose entirely.

"Fifty-five percent of those bills aim to limit access to abortion through parental notification laws, consent requirements, counseling and waiting periods and limitations on public funding."

The bills range in the intensity of their opposition to abortion writ large:

"In Georgia, Rep. Bobby Franklin labels all abortions as "prenatal murder" with a punishment of the death penalty or life in prison.

Ohio legislators introduced the "heartbeat bill," which would ban abortions once there is evidence of a fetal heartbeat, although according to doctors, that doesn't occur in a set timeframe."

According to the Center for American Progress, many states are also racing to exclude abortion coverage from the state health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

"Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee already passed laws last year “opting out” of allowing plans offered on their state exchanges to provide coverage for abortion. And at least 21 states have introduced legislation this year that seeks to restrict the availability of abortion coverage in their exchanges."

Several members of Congress have also introduced either bills or amendments that would limit abortion rights. RNN writes:

"The House Judiciary Committee approved the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which abolishes tax breaks for private employers who provide health coverage offering abortion services.

The "Protect Life Act," sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, and Dan Lipinski, D-IL, would prohibit Americans who receive insurance through state exchanges from purchasing abortion coverage, even with their own money." That bill is currently being considered by the House Ways and Means committee.

 What's more, in February the House of Representatives passed an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), to the spending bill that would ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.

So why the sudden tide of pro-life legislation? According to CBS News, recent events have stacked themselves in favor of the anti-abortion movement:

  "States across the country elected new, emboldened conservative politicians. Hundreds of anti-abortion rights legislators and a net of 12 new anti-abortion rights governors were elected, according to Americans United for Life. Meanwhile, a set of news-making events in the past year — such as the passage of health care reform and video of the conservative “sting” on Planned Parenthood — galvanized conservative activists."

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice think tank, American women have fewer abortions than women in many other parts of the world. There are 19.6 abortions per 1000 women in the U.S. each year, but 28 in Europe and 29 in Asia. Overall unintended pregnancy rates have been stable over the past decade, but unintended pregnancy increased by 29 percent among poor women and decreased 20 percent among higher-income women.



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