Bill extending pre-abortion wait passes committee

A South Dakota committee voted to extend the waiting period before a woman can have an abortion Friday.

Current South Dakota law requires the woman seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours before the procedure. If House Bill 1237 passes, weekends and holidays would be excluded from that time.

Supporters said the extension is necessary to give women time to get mandated counseling before their abortion — counseling they said might not be available on weekends or holidays.

“As a matter of public policy, we should afford these pregnant mothers reasonable access to these counseling sessions,” said Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, the prime sponsor of the proposal.

Opponents said the bill was simply about making it harder for women to have abortions.

“I believe this is an egregious… attempt… to make it more difficult for women to obtain legal and safe abortions,” said Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron.

After nearly two hours of testimony and debate, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send the bill to the full House for consideration.

The House must take action on the bill by the end of the day on Wednesday.

A compromise amendment was proposed by Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead. He would have allowed weekends and holidays to count toward the 72 hours but required the 72 hours include at least one full business day.

Johns’ amendment was never formally proposed and voted on. Johns said he was undecided about whether he’d propose the amendment to the full House.

Hansen said he opposes the Johns amendment because he believes one business day is not enough time for women to seek out pre-abortion counseling. Tiffany Campbell, the advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, which opposes HB 1237, said Johns’ amendment would make the bill better but that her group would still oppose the bill if so amended.