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USA News

Federal judge denies South Dakota mandate on abortion counseling

by Premier Journalist

A district judge has blocked a South Dakota law that required anyone desiring an abortion to attend some form of counseling.

In 2011, South Dakota Lawmakers passed a law that required women seeking abortions to undergo counseling with pro-life pregnancy centers before receiving access. The law passed quickly in South Dakota and was described as a way to ward off coercive tactics and allow potential mothers to consider "both sides" before making the decision. Doing so required the woman to get a written form stating that they had spoken with a said representative.

However, the law has received some scrutiny from judges. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier previously challenged the law because the bill required women to give the pregnancy center personal information, including marital status and healthcare provider. Schreier also argued that the legislation presumed that the woman seeking the abortion was a neutral agent when she likely had made a decision already. When asked to review the law again, Schreier stated that the law was a breach of privacy. "A pregnancy help center counselor enters an interview with a pregnant woman under the paternalistic assumption that the woman has not yet decided to seek an abortion of her own volition," wrote Schreier, "but rather because she is unable to make a decision on her own and is subject to societal pressures."

While some lawmakers have attempted to fix the particular language of the law to make it more palatable, none of the attempts have been enough to convince Judge Schreier that the requirement was not an "unconstitutional state imposition."

The office of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem immediately responded to this argument, proclaiming that "Given that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide on the constitutionality of prohibiting abortion before 'viability,' we are asking the 8th Circuit to recognize that the people's legislators should have the ability to pass pro-life laws." The statement refers to the upcoming Supreme Court case involving Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

While Noem's office claims they have been unable to pass pro-life laws in South Dakota, the governor recently signed a bill that banned abortions based on a Down syndrome diagnosis.

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