South Dakota Passes Longest Abortion Wait Period in Nation

South Dakota's governor signed into law the nation's longest abortion waiting period, 72 hours, on Tuesday.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed House Bill 1217 that requires women seeking an abortion to be assessed by a physician and receive counseling at a pregnancy help center to ensure their decision to have an abortion is "voluntary, uncoerced, and informed." The law extends the state's previously 24-hour wait period.

"I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives," Daugaard said in a statement. "I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices."

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About half the states in the U.S. have 24-hour wait periods. South Dakota is the first to adopt the three-day hold.

Taking effect July 1, the law says that abortions can only be scheduled by a doctor who has personally met with the woman seeking the procedure and determined that she is voluntarily requesting to end her pregnancy. The abortion then cannot take place until the required three-day wait period.

"Women need to just be reminded of the fact there is a natural, legal relationship between them and their child," said South Dakota state Rep. Roger Hunt, the main sponsor of the bill, according to The Associated Press.

The measure ensures women are not being coerced into abortions by relatives or boyfriends, according to supporters.

However, pro-choice advocates are in an uproar.

Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, said the law was an "egregious violation" of the Constitution.

Planned Parenthood, which operates the states only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, plans to file a lawsuit. The group will join the American Civil Liberties Union, which will also challenge the law.

Since Roe v. Wade in 1973 made abortions legal, the South Dakota legislature has been the scene of vicious battles over the abortion debate.

In 2006 and 2008, lawmakers banned abortions for pregnancies that were not considered life-threatening. South Dakota voters subsequently overturned the laws.

The latest legislation is one of many recent actions taken by conservative lawmakers nationwide in the fight to preserve the rights of unborn babies that include requiring healthcare providers to offer pregnant mothers sonograms of their babies.

Pro-life supporters often cite findings from research suggesting that unborn babies feel pain after 20 weeks from conception.

Last year, Nebraska outlawed abortion after 20 weeks. Since then, comparable measures have been introduced in 17 states, including Oklahoma this month.

Idaho state senators are scheduled to debate a similar bill on Wednesday.

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