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Major pro-life legislation sweeping S.D., nation

WASHINGTON (BP)–South Dakota has become the first state to require a woman to consult with a pro-life pregnancy help center and to wait 72 hours before having an abortion.

The measure is one of many pro-life proposals that have received action this year in state legislative sessions in what has become a national wave.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, signed into law March 22 legislation that not only mandates counseling about alternatives to abortion but establishes the 72-hour waiting period, the longest in the country.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota said it would file a lawsuit against the barrier-breaking law, which is set to take effect July 1. Daugaard said he consulted Attorney General Marty Jackley before signing the bill. Supporters of the bill promised to use private funds to help defend the law.

Daugaard, in a written statement, said he thinks “everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives. I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”

The new law requires a woman seeking an abortion to consult with an abortion doctor before waiting 72 hours for the procedure. During the consultation, the physician must determine the woman’s desire for an abortion is voluntary. She also must visit a pregnancy care center to learn about services it provides to help her give birth to her child.

No other state requires such a three-day reflection period, although 24 states require either an 18- or 24-hour wait, according to Americans United for Life (AUL). Some states mandate a 72-hour period if required materials are mailed instead of presented in person to a woman considering abortion, AUL reported.

Rep. Scott Munsterman, a pro-life Republican supporter of the law, told The Sioux Falls Argus Leader, “If somebody is going to have that procedure, I would rather err on the side of the individual being as informed as they possibly can. If that means that’s a hindrance to the procedure, then that’s a hindrance to the procedure.”

Planned Parenthood condemned the law. It “shows contempt for women,” said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

The three-state affiliate is part of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country’s leading abortion provider. Planned Parenthood’s affiliates reported more than 332,000 abortions in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Among pro-life actions taken in other state legislatures recently:

— The Arizona Senate approved in a 21-5 vote March 21 a ban on sex-selection and race-based abortions, LifeNews.com reported. The legislation must return to the House of Representatives for passage since the Senate version differs from one approved earlier in the lower chamber.

— The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 94-2 to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on evidence unborn children experience pain at that point in gestation. It often is called a “fetal pain bill.” Eight days later, the Oklahoma House approved March 17 a bill outlawing stem-cell research that destroys embryos, according to The Daily Oklahoman. The vote was 86-8.

— The Idaho Senate voted 24-10 March 23 for a bill similar to Oklahoma’s that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on fetal pain, The Spokesman-Review reported. It now moves to the House.

— The Kansas Senate passed a bill by a vote of 24-15 March 23 banning most abortions after the 21st week of pregnancy based on fetal pain evidence. The bill goes to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who is expected to sign it.

— On March 16, the Georgia Senate voted 36-13 for a bill giving a woman the ability to recover financial damages from a doctor who performs an illegal abortion on her, according to LifeNews.

— The Texas House passed March 7 in a 107-42 vote legislation requiring a woman to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion, according to the Associated Press. The Senate has passed a similar bill, but its version is not as strict as the House’s.

— The New Hampshire House took two pro-life actions March 16, defeating a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in a 234-99 vote and approving in a 256-102 roll call a measure requiring parental notification before a minor can obtain an abortion, according to the National Right to Life Committee.

— The New Mexico House approved 63-5 on March 10 a measure criminalizing the killing or harming of an unborn child during an attack on a pregnant woman, LifeNews reported.

— The Utah House passed two pro-life bills March 7, one by a 47-25 vote to require two inspections each year of abortion clinics and another by a 54-13 tally to strengthen conscience protections for pro-life doctors and expand freedom of conscience to include hospitals, according to the Deseret News.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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