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South Dakota Abortions: Mandatory 3-Day Wait

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 23, 2011 1:15 PM

For the last five years, South Dakota abortion law has been at the center of the national reproductive health debate. Lawmakers have continuously passed laws banning most abortions, even when state residents disagreed with their choices.

Well, the state just got even more strict.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a bill that requires women to attend a "pregnancy help center" and then wait an additional 72 hours prior to having an abortion. This is the most restrictive law in the country.

When it comes to non-profit reproductive health centers, women generally have the choice to visit Planned Parenthood or a pregnancy help center. A pregnancy help center differs in that it usually boasts a religious affiliation and categorically opposes abortion.

This requirement is unique in that it forces South Dakota abortion seekers to receive counseling from someone who opposes the procedure, reports The New York Times. And, according to Reuters, they are the only state to require this type of counseling.

It's also important to note that no other state in the country has a waiting period longer than 24 hours. The 72 hour period in the South Dakota abortion law is in a class of its own.

As usual, opponents of the law are vowing to fight. Will they win?

They certainly have a tough road ahead of them. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court ruled that states may impose reasonable restrictions on abortions. It, however, found that all regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman to be unconstitutional.

To prove that the 72-hour wait period and the pregnancy help center mandate are unconstitutional, opponents must show that the law imposes a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability."

Courts have upheld 24-hour waiting periods, as well as counseling sessions designed to inform women of their choices and any risks. However, there's no definitive rule about who can conduct those counseling sessions and exactly what must be said. Additionally, it's also possible that 24 hours is reasonable, but 72 hours is not.

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