South Dakota Abortion Law Temporarily Barred

A new abortion law in South Dakota that was set to go into effect on July 1 has been temporarily halted, as a U.S. District Court decides whether the law violates a doctor’s rights to free speech.

South Dakota approved a new law requiring doctors to provide information abortion medical and psychological risks for women seeking an abortion. Doctors would have to tell women that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Under the new law, women would have to provide written consent for an abortion. In addition, women must read and sign all the information provided her, including details about the unborn child’s gestational age and development and the alternative options available to her if she decided to keep the child.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the law forces doctors to make anti-abortion statements to women.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier agreed with Planned Parenthood. Schreier granted a temporary injunction on the state abortion law, ruling that Planned Parenthood has presented strong arguments against it.

“The South Dakota statute requires abortion doctors to enunciate the state's viewpoint on an unsettled medical, philosophical, theological and scientific issue - that is, whether a fetus is a human being,” wrote Schreier.

Schreier continued, saying that the state law may “violate the First Amendment rights of abortion providers by compelling them to espouse the state’s theology.”

Attorneys for the state contended that the required information under the new law was based on sound science. Schreier agreed that the state could provide women with information on the unborn child’s development and on available aid if the mother wanted to keep the child. However, the new law goes too far in forcing doctors to make statements that they may not agree with, said Shreier.

A hearing is scheduled for October to decide whether the injunction will become permanent.