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South Dakota Republican Introduces ‘Medically Inaccurate,’ ‘Inflammatory’ Anti-Abortion Bill (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

The bill targets dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, which may be used in a second-trimester abortion. The D and E procedure is often used when it is the safest means of preserving the life, health, and perhaps the fertility of the pregnant person.

UPDATE, February 20, 12:09 p.m.: According to news reports, the South Dakota house has introduced an amendment to Rep. Latterell’s bill that “removed the original content of the beheading bill and replaced it with one sentence: ‘The State of South Dakota recognizes the sanctity of human life.'”

A South Dakota lawmaker has introduced a bill to restrict abortion services in the state by targeting second-trimester abortions, repackaging legislative language from a controversial bill introduced in 2014.

HB 1230, sponsored by Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-Tea), would make it illegal for any physician to “knowingly behead a living unborn child with the intent of endangering the life or health of the child.”

The anti-choice bill includes similarly graphic language that was included in HB 1241, a bill introduced last year by Latterell. HB 1230 replaces a ban on the “dismemberment or decapitation of certain living unborn children” with a ban on “the beheading of certain living unborn children.”

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Like its predecessor, HB 1230 targets dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedures, which may be used in a second-trimester abortion. The D and E procedure is often used when it is the safest means of preserving the life, health, and perhaps the fertility of the pregnant person.

Another change is language that the bill is not intended to target the “aspiration abortion procedure.” During the procedure used to remove a fetus prior to 13 weeks’ gestation, commonly referred to as suction aspiration, the fetus is often not removed fully intact.

HB 1241 did not include such language. As legal analysis by Rewire has shown, the broad language in HB 1241 could have, in practice, banned all surgical abortions in the state.

Another change Latterell made to the bill was to reduce the criminal penalties that a physician could face for performing the procedure. HB 1230 reduces a violation of the proposed law from the Class B felony to a Class 1 felony. Instead of facing life imprisonment, physicians will face 50 years imprisonment.

Latterell has already had more success with HB 1230 than he had with HB 1241, which was tabled in committee. The state’s Health and Human Services committee voted 11 to 2 along party lines Tuesday to approve the bill.

During his testimony at the committee hearing, Latterell said that the bill was intended to address “a serious loophole in our current law.” Latterell said HB 1230’s language was narrowed to avoid a court challenge.

Latterell compared the use of the D and E procedure to revolting methods of execution such as beheading as used by “unconscionably violent soldiers” in the Middle East. “It’s unfortunate that in our state Planned Parenthood abortionists in Sioux Falls are similarly beheading unborn children during dismemberment abortions,” he said during the hearing.

However, no D and E procedures are performed in South Dakota. Planned Parenthood Sioux Falls, the only clinic that provides abortions in South Dakota, provides medication abortions up to nine weeks and surgical abortions up to 13 weeks’ gestation. The clinic does not provide surgical abortions in which a D and E is required.

The clinic has told Rewire that all patients who need D and E services are referred to clinics in other states.

Technically, hospitals can perform such procedures in the state, though none of the hospitals in the state use D and E.

Latterell said during the hearing that most people do not know that the procedure occurs, “because Planned Parenthood Sioux Falls denies that they behead unborn children.” Latterell cited reporting by Rewire as proof that Planned Parenthood has “no problem” with the procedure since they refer patients needing the procedure to abortion providers in other states.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jennifer Aulwes said the language is medically inaccurate and inflammatory, and that South Dakota’s sole abortion clinic does not perform abortions after 14 weeks’ gestation, according to reporting by KSFY.

“I’m just angry at what Planned Parenthood is doing…to us and to our children,” Latterell said.

The bill now awaits debate and vote by the full South Dakota house, in which Republicans hold a 58-12 advantage.

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