A doctor performing a “pain-capable” abortion could face up to two years in state prison under a South Dakota GOP bill that cleared the state house Tuesday.
HB 1101 further criminalizes abortion care in a state with only one abortion clinic, but the bill’s Republican sponsor insisted the legislation does not impose a hardship on women—because abortions “kill” female fetuses.
“The fact is, half of the abortions include the death of a girl, so it’s certainly not an attack against women,” Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) said in support of the bill.
Anti-choice groups like the National Right to Life Committee, which push the notion that a fetus experiences pain, are becoming increasingly successful in enshrining the concept into law to restrict abortion care. At least 19 states have enacted 20-week bans. The medical establishment consensus is that a fetus’ nervous system is not developed until the third trimester, and cannot feel pain.
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The anti-choice bill now heads to the state senate. Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in both chambers.
Haugaard told the Argus Leader that he introduced the legislation to deter doctors from performing the medical procedure after 20 weeks.
“I think if physicians understand they’re facing a felony in the event they choose to proceed with the abortion when they know the child is pain-capable, they should know that their license is at risk of being taken away,” he said.
South Dakota lawmakers last year passed a law making “pain-capable” abortion care a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. Haugaard’s HB 1101 would make it a felony punishable by up to two years in state prison and/or a $4,000 fine.
“Representative Haugaard’s statement is not only erroneous, but irrelevant to the bill that was under deliberation,” Samantha Spawn, interim executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, said in a statement. “This bill … further penalizes doctors for executing their best medical judgement with patients who are already suffering the loss of their wanted pregnancies. Perhaps Representative Haugaard should better research existing abortion restrictions in South Dakota before misinforming his colleagues on the House floor.”