Bill extending abortion wait period passes SD House

A bill extending the time women must wait before having an abortion passed the South Dakota House with support from four-fifths of the body Wednesday evening.

House Bill 1237 would exclude weekends and holidays from the 72-hour pre-abortion waiting period signed into law in 2011.

Supporters said it’s necessary to give women more time to get the counseling required of them, given that crisis pregnancy centers may not be open on weekends or holidays.

“The exclusion of weekends and holidays is crucial to ensuring that a pregnant mother is able to obtain (counseling),” said Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids.

Democrats opposed to the bill called it insulting to women.

“My goodness, we think South Dakota women are stupid,” said Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron.

Rep. Marc Feinstein, D-Sioux Falls, said the bill overlooked the fact that “the human body doesn’t only work and function during business hours.”

But a strong majority of lawmakers agreed that the extra time would help.

“This bill allows some extra time for those young ladies to consider what might be the most important decision of their young life,” said Rep. Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon.

A proposed amendment by Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, would have watered down the amendment to require simply that the 72-hour period include one business day. The bill as proposed requires two business days.

Johns said he believes his amendment would make the bill more likely to hold up in court.

But Hansen said the bill was legally sound, and the House rejected Johns’ amendment by a voice vote.

After nearly an hour of debate, the House approved HB 1237 56-13. It now heads to the Senate, which must approve the bill before it can head to Gov. Dennis Daugaard to become law.