News Abortion

South Dakota Law Would Mandate Weekends and Holidays Can’t Count in Abortion Waiting Period

Robin Marty

Sorry, folks, weekends and holidays don't apply.

With their mandatory crisis pregnancy center counseling bill in the courts, a 72-hour waiting period ready to go into effect, and just one clinic in the entire state, you might think that South Dakota had mostly run out of ways to cut off abortion access via the state legislature.

You would be wrong.

The South Dakota legislature will be debating two bills this session, one that will allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions, refuse to test for genetic issues with a pregnancy, and protect the medical practitioner from lawsuits as a result of either issue. The second will be yet another tinkering with the state’s waiting period.

Letting doctors lie about genetic issues is a new favorite of anti-choice legislatures who seem intent on not just stopping abortion but undermining the fabric of the doctor/patient relationship. After all, if you will never know beyond a doubt that your doctor isn’t lying to you, how can you ever be truly comfortable in believing medical information he or she provides?

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In comparison, a new waiting period before an abortion almost seems tame. On the surface it is just a revamp of the 72-hour wait already proposed as part of the mandatory counseling bill stuck in the courts, a portion which Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota already offered to let go into effect so they could continue to fight the mandatory CPC visit section of the law.

It’s once you get deeper into the details that you realize that it’s really not a 72-hour wait after all.

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. Only after the physician completes the consultation and assessment complying with the provisions of §§ 34-23A-53 to 34-23A-62, inclusive, may the physician schedule a surgical or medical abortion, but in no instance may the physician schedule such surgical or medical abortion to take place in less than seventy-two hours from the completion of such consultation and assessment except in a medical emergency as set forth in § 34-23A-10.1 and subdivision 34-23A-1(5). No Saturday, Sunday, federal holiday, or state holiday may be included or counted in the calculation of the seventy-two hour minimum time period between the initial physician consultation and assessment and the time of the scheduled abortion procedure. No physician may have the pregnant mother sign a consent for the abortion on the day of this initial consultation. [emphasis added]

First legislatures redefine science and pregnancy, now they are redefining the passage of time? Removing weekends and holidays will in essence turn the waiting period into a week long minimum, since it would be nearly impossible to schedule during weekdays. It leaves little doubt that the purpose of measure is to push women up to the timeline to where it is too late to obtain a termination, and in the process will force her to wait longer to eliminate her access to less invasive medication abortion and into a surgical procedure.

The additional “bankers hours” language is a completely new concept among waiting periods, which have never before tried to regulate which hours are allowed to be included. Utah, the only other state to enact a super-sized waiting period, leaves the issue unaddressed, and the two dozen states with a 24-hour period do as well. Elizabeth Nash, who tracks legislative bills for the Guttmacher Institute, says that no other state attempts to define the waiting period in such a direct way.

“It’s absurd that legislators are revisiting this issue,” Alisha Sedor, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota told Rewire. “This bill makes the waiting period even more egregious when its constitutionality is already unclear. South Dakota voters have twice shown that they believe this is a decision best left to a woman, her family and her medical provider. It is time for politicians to listen to their constituents and leave this issue alone.”

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