According to a new law signed by the Governor of South Dakota yesterday and going into effect July 1, women now have to wait 72 hours before they can get an abortion. This three day waiting period will be the longest in the country and unfortunately it isn’t even the most egregious part of the new law. The worst part requires that women get counseling from “crisis pregnancy centers” before they can have an abortion. While many states require counseling, South Dakota will be the first state to require counseling from “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are often set up to look like women’s health clinics, but, in reality, oppose abortion and work to convince women not to have abortions.
These new requirements will make it an already difficult personal decision even harder. While at first glance a three day wait may seem little more than an inconvenience, in South Dakota it is a real obstacle, because it only has one clinic that provides non-emergency abortions. Meaning that some women have to take time off from work or school to drive hours to get to the clinic, and these women will be forced to take off additional time and make the same drive again three days later. Not everyone has the ability to take off that much time or make that long of a drive twice, making it much more complicated for women to gain access to a legal medical procedure.
However, if a woman is able to take the time off and get to the one clinic in the state; she is now forced to get counseling from a “crisis pregnancy center.” They frequently have a religious affiliation and are often staffed with volunteers who do not have medical training. Their main goal is to discourage women from getting an abortion. Women who visit these crisis pregnancy centers are often given incorrect information exaggerating the risks of abortion. Women who are already upset and making a difficult decision will be forced to sit and listen to information meant to scare them into changing their mind.
The stated purpose of this new law is to reduce abortions, but is harassing women who have unplanned pregnancies really the best way to accomplish this? No! The best way to reduce the abortion rate is to make sure that women have access to family planning so that they can prevent getting pregnant in the first place.
Unfortunately the same people that are pushing laws like the South Dakota law are also pushing to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X. Title X is the federal family planning program that gives low-income women access to birth control, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and testing for STIs including HIV. The cuts in Title X and the defunding of Planned Parenthood will leave many women without the ability to access reproductive health services. Planned Parenthood alone serves 1 in 5 women at some point during their lives.
If low-income and young women cannot access family planning services and information the abortion rate will climb, whether or not there’s a waiting period. In truth, South Dakota’s new law is part of a much larger campaign of intimidation aimed at depriving women of the right to control their own fertility. Earlier this year in South Dakota, a legislative committee seriously debated a proposed bill that would, in effect, define the provision of abortion services as homicide. In Georgia, a state representative recently introduced a bill that would make having a miscarriage a capital offense unless the mother can irrefutably prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation of such an event.” It’s no wonder that women’s groups are calling these efforts a “war on women.” It is.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager