Abortion: Why South Dakota Has One of Worst Pro Choice Records in America


South Dakota

In South Dakota, 14 out of 18 pieces of anti-abortion legislation proposed since 2005 have become law.

A 2005 South Dakota law that had been tied up in legal wrangling was recently upheld in a federal appeals court. The law requires doctors to tell women they face an increased risk of suicide if they have an abortion, even though this correlation is untrue. According to a 2008 Johns Hopkins review of studies on abortion and mental health, “the highest quality studies had findings that were mostly neutral, suggesting few, if any, differences between women who had abortions and their respective comparison groups in terms of mental health sequelae. Conversely, studies with the most flawed methodology found negative mental health sequelae of abortion.”

This is not the only seemingly absurdist bill South Dakota has considered or passed in recent years. South Dakota’s proposed 2011 “justifiable homicide bill” would “allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion — even if she wanted one.” The bill was shelved.

In 2008, South Dakotan voters barely voted down (55-45) a proposed constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, with exceptions provided for rape, incest, and the health of the mother. The amendment would have penalized doctors with up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

In 2011, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law requiring a 72-hour (that’s three days, for the math-challenged) waiting period — it was previously 24 hours — and religious “pregnancy crisis” (read: anti-choice) counseling. Opponents immediately took the law to court. Planned Parenthood won a temporary injunction in federal court; the law is ruled to impose an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

South Dakota also requires parental notification, bans telemedicine, and permits public funding only in the case of life endangerment. In a 77,000+ square-mile state (the size of 63.5 Rhode Islands), there is only one Planned Parenthood clinic providing abortion services.

Editor's Note: With 12 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana ,Arkansas, Missouri, KentuckyMinnesotaIllinoisIowaMississippiMichigan, Indiana, Alabama, OhioFloridaGeorgiaD.C.South CarolinaNorth CarolinaVirginia and MarylandPennsylvaniaDelawareNew JerseyNew YorkWisconsinConnecticutVermont,  Massachusetts & Rhode IslandMaine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!