Planned Parenthood Sues South Dakota Over Abortion Restrictions


Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS), represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and joined by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed suit today in Federal District Court in Sioux Falls, SD, against a new law that severely restricts abortion access.

PPMNS v. Daugaard challenges HB 1217, which passed the South Dakota legislature in March and is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2011. The law would require a woman who is seeking an abortion to first prove that she has received so-called “counseling” from an unlicensed, unaccredited and unregulated crisis pregnancy centers. Further, it imposes a 72-hour mandatory delay for an abortion after a woman’s initial consultation with her doctor and requires her doctor to obtain written proof from her that she sought counseling at a crisis pregnancy center. The mandatory delay would be the longest in the nation.

“The voters of South Dakota, by resounding measures at the ballot box, twice have told their legislators that the decision to have an abortion is between a woman, her family and her doctor, and that government should not intrude on that decision,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. “This law goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship, and putting women and families at risk.”

PPFA attorney Mimi Liu said the law is a violation of fundamental rights: “The Act has both the purpose and the effect of severely restricting access to health care, and violates patients’ and physicians’ First Amendment rights against compelled speech and patients’ right to privacy in their personal and medical information,” she said.

And Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law plays politics with women’s health.  “It is demeaning for the government to force a woman to visit a non-medical facility with a political agenda when she is making one of the most personal medical decisions of her life,” she said. “We hope the court will stop the law from going into effect.”

In addition to the 72-hour mandatory delay and counseling requirements, the act requires a physician to identify every article that mentions any ostensible risk factor associated with abortion published in the past 40 years, and to discuss with women seeking an abortion all manner of so-called risk factors and complications related to abortion discussed in these articles, no matter how questionable, out of date, or refuted by the medical community they may be.

South Dakota’s abortion regulations are the most burdensome in the country. The state already has a 24-hour mandatory delay in place. In addition, a woman must be offered the opportunity to view a sonogram, and her responses must be recorded as part of her permanent medical records. And she must receive a government-dictated message from her doctor that is designed to intimidate and dissuade her.  

 “We will muster everything in our power to counter this law and to protect the health and well-being of South Dakota’s women and families,” said Stoesz. “The voters have made their wishes clear. It’s a travesty that their lawmakers have ignored them.”


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