US District Court Judge Karen Scheier ruled to allow two South Dakota crisis pregnancy centers, the Alpha Center and the Black Hills Crisis Pregnancy Center, to intervene in a case regarding a state law requiring that women undergo a 72 hour waiting period and mandatory counseling from a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) before obtaining an abortion. Attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit in late May against the law.
In July, Schreier issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from going into effect while it is being challenged in court. At that time, Judge Schreier indicated that she believed that 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.”
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.
National Partnership for Women and Families 1/11/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 7/5/11