US District Court Judge Karen Schreier blocked a law in South Dakota requiring that women undergo a 72 hour waiting period and mandatory counseling from a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) before obtaining an abortion. Schreier’s preliminary injunction will prevent the law, scheduled to take effect July 1, from becoming effective while it is being challenged in court. Attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit in late May against the law.
Judge Schreier found the provision requiring that women receive counseling at a CPC was likely unconstitutional, stating, “Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being. The woman will feel degraded by the compulsive nature of the Pregnancy Help Center requirements, which suggest that she has made the ‘wrong’ decision, has not really ‘thought’ about her decision to undergo an abortion or is ‘not intelligent enough’ to make the decision with the advice of a physician.”
South Dakota is the first state in the country to mandate a 72 hour waiting period, although 25 states currently require a 24 hour waiting period. If the law takes effect, women seeking abortions could have to make multiple trips to South Dakota’s only abortion provider in Sioux Falls.
Currently, there are an estimated 3,500 CPCs nationwide, most of which are affiliated with one or more national umbrella organizations. CPCs often pose as comprehensive health centers and offer “free” pregnancy tests. Some CPCs coerce and intimidate women out of considering abortion as an option, and do not offer women neutral or comprehensive medical advice. Often CPCs are run by anti-abortion zealots who are not licensed medical professionals.