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In South Dakota, Abortion Fight Goes On
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In South Dakota, Abortion Fight Goes On

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South Dakota is already among the states with the toughest abortion restrictions. And this week, another law took things even further. It requires a three-day waiting period, that's the longest in the country. It also mandates counseling from a pregnancy crisis center before any abortion is performed, counseling meant to discourage abortion. The law also makes no exceptions for rape or incest, and it's likely to be challenged in court.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Cara Hetland reports that this law, as with so many other abortion restrictions before it, came from one man.

CARA HETLAND: In South Dakota, there are about 58 abortions for every 1,000 births - one of the lowest rates in the nation.

In this huge but sparsely populated state, there are only two clinics performing abortions.

Still, State Representative Roger Hunt says there are too many abortions being performed here. He says his mission is drafting legislation to further restrict abortions.

State Representative ROGER HUNT (Republican, South Dakota): Twenty-three...

HETLAND: Hunt flips through the South Dakota codified law book to the section dealing with abortion.

Rep. HUNT: 34-23A...

HETLAND: There are 36 pages in all with laws that define life as beginning with conception and those requiring parental consent of a minor. Roger Hunt doesn't consider these laws restrictive enough.

State Rep. HUNT: It's the matter of the woman's legal, constitutional and moral right to have a relationship with her child, and that the interference and termination of that relationship when you're terminating a legal right - constitutional right, et cetera - cannot be done. That's an issue that U.S. Supreme Court has never, never addressed.

Ms. SARAH STOESZ (President and Chief Executive, Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota): Calling this law protective is supremely cynical. This law is nothing but coercive.

HETLAND: Sarah Stoesz heads the local chapter of Planned Parenthood here. She says this latest law requiring a longer waiting period and more counseling puts an undue burden on women in a vast state like South Dakota.

Ms. STOESZ: Women already drive great distances. The logistical and financial hardships that are imposed on women under the terms of this 72-hour wait are cruel and unnecessary and intolerable and, I think, unethical.

HETLAND: Stoesz says across the country, state legislatures with newly elected Republican majorities are also proposing more restrictive abortion laws.

Ms. STOESZ: I cannot believe that what they are doing reflects the will of the people. And if they believed that what they are doing reflects the will of the people, they would have been much more transparent and open when they ran for office and, in fact, they weren't.

HETLAND: South Dakota Representative Roger Hunt says as long as he is in office, he'll continue to do what he's done his entire political career - try to further restrict abortions. Planned Parenthood will likely continue to challenge those laws in court.

Either way, South Dakota keeps the distinction of being in the forefront of restricting abortion rights.

For NPR News, I'm Cara Hetland in Sioux Falls.

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