Judge Says No to Attack on Women’s Reproductive Rights in SD

Jul 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

There is such an unremitting stream of Bad News on the Republican War on Women’s Reproductive Rights that we must take note of whatever little victories we see. Some may amount to little more than stays of execution; we won’t know until the case has worked its way through the legal system to its conclusion. But some may presage victories, road-blocks in front of an obscene Republican blitzkrieg to own and dominate our nation’s women.

One such victory took place in South Dakota on Thursday when a federal court said “NO” to House Bill 1217, signed into law by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in March, which requires women to wait 72-hours before having an abortion (the national norm is 24 hours) and to attend counseling sessions at faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers.”

As I previously reported here, these CPCs are a front for the anti-Women’s Reproductive Rights movement and wholly under control of the virulently hostile religious right. What neutral, thoughtful, and helpful input is a woman going to get from such a group? None. And of course, by law, any group run by sane people is prevented from offering said counseling. According to the law, a crisis pregnancy center is,

any entity . . . that has as one of its principal missions to provide education, counseling, and other assistance to help a pregnant mother maintain her relationship with her unborn child and care for her unborn child, which entity has a medical director who is licensed to practice medicine in the state of South Dakota, or that it has a collaborative agreement with a physician licensed in South Dakota to practice medicine to whom women can be referred, which entity does not perform abortions and is not affiliated with any physician or entity that performs abortions, and does not now refer pregnant mothers for abortions, and has not referred any pregnant mother for abortions for the three-year period immediately preceding July 1, 2011[.]

In May, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS ) filed suit “against the South Dakota governor, attorney general, health department secretary and the executive director of the Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners. PPMNS is represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and is joined in the suit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).”

The judge laid out their case thusly:

Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the Pregnancy Help Center Requirements create an undue burden for four reasons: (1) the Act does not adequately protect the patient’s confidentiality; (2) the pregnancy help centers are not required to act in an expeditious manner; (3) the pregnancy help centers are allowed to give untruthful and misleading information; and (4) the Pregnancy Help Center Requirements unduly deter physicians from offering abortion services.

In her opinion, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Karen Schreier takes exception to the provisions of this law:

Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being. The woman will feel degraded by the compulsive nature of the Pregnancy Help Center requirements, which suggest that she has made the “wrong” decision, has not really “thought” about her decision to undergo an abortion, or is “not intelligent enough” to make the decision with the advice of a physician.

Furthermore, these women are forced into a hostile environment. Aside from its compulsive nature, the hostility of the consultation is evidenced by the fact that section 5 of the Act establishes that the only entities that can be listed on the state registry of pregnancy help centers are those that routinely “consult[] with women for the purpose of helping them keep their relationship with their unborn children” and that “one of [their] principal missions is to educate, counsel, and otherwise assist women to help them maintain their relationship with their unborn children.” A pregnancy help center cannot have even “referred any pregnant women for an abortion at any time in the three years immediately preceding July 1, 2011.” Requiring these women to “have a consultation,” and a “private interview” with a “pregnancy help center” destroys “[t]he right to avoid unwelcome speech” that is “protected in confrontational settings.” Cf. Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703, 717 (2000).

These CPCs are supposed to ensure the woman was not “coerced” into having an abortion. Of course, it’s perfectly permissible under this law – indeed, it is the intent of this law – to coerce a woman into not having an abortion. As the judge put it in her opinion:

There are clear ideological differences between a woman who has chosen to undergo an abortion and a “pregnancy help center.” When considering these differences, a woman will likely be unwilling to actually consult with a pregnancy help center because she will fear being ridiculed, labeled a murderer, subjected to anti-abortion ideology, and repeatedly contacted by the pregnancy help center. Moreover, a woman may likely believe, rightly or wrongly, that her decision to have an abortion could become public information. And it will not matter to her that in the future she may be able to obtain legal relief from the pregnancy help center worker who disclosed the information. By then it will be too late. Thus, rather than risk having such information being made public or to avoid “consulting” with someone who is not supportive of her decision to have an abortion, she will be forced to remain pregnant.

According to The American Independent, “Only one clinic offers abortion services in South Dakota, in Sioux Falls. Thus far, three pregnancy centers have registered to participate in the temporarily suspended counseling program: Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center in Rapid City, Bella Pregnancy Resource Center in Spearfish and Alpha Center in Sioux Falls.”

Reuters reports that Governor Daugaard expressed no surprise at the court’s ruling. In a statement, the governor reaffirmed his misogyny: “I believe everyone agrees — no matter what their stance on abortion — that it’s a laudable goal to reduce abortions by encouraging consideration of other alternatives.” Never mind that HB 1217 did not “encourage” but coerce and stomp on First Amendment protections in the process. So in other words, this Republican governor, like all Republican governors and legislatures, promises he will continue to wage war not only on Women’s Reproductive Rights, but on the United States Constitution.

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