By: Libby Skarin, Policy Director & Lobbyist

As you know, ACLU SD worked on a lot of issues during the 2016 Legislative Session. I’ve already blogged about the slew of anti-LGBT legislation we saw in Pierre this year and detailed our successes there. That was the good news portion of my legislative recap. Today, let’s delve into the bad news: this session was dismal for supporters of women’s reproductive rights.

In 2015, we made it out of the session with no major anti-abortion bills passed into law. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in 2016. This year we saw three bills with a substantive focus on abortion pass into law.

  • SB 24, a bill to “prohibit the sale of fetal body parts” appeared to have arisen out of the baseless attacks waged on Planned Parenthood over the past year. This bill, introduced in the legislature at the request of the Attorney General’s Office, sailed through the legislature. The good news is that it doesn’t actually impact abortion rights – the sale of “fetal body parts” is already illegal under federal law. The bad news is that this bill was unnecessary political posturing in an attempt to give a smudge of credibility to the widely-discredited nationwide attacks on abortion providers.
  • HB 1157 was a bill to “require that a doctor provide a woman additional information as part of informed consent prior to performing abortion.” That may sound harmless, but it’s anything but – what this new law does is force a doctor to give her patient information that she may believe is medically inaccurate or even harmful. This bill was drafted based on the extremely dubious claim that medication abortions can be “reversed” – a claim refuted by major medical groups such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
  • SB 72, a full 20 week abortion ban, was perhaps the worst bill we saw this session. Signed by the Governor at the end of March, this bill presents significant constitutional problems. Even worse, it includes no exception for unviable fetuses with severe medical problems, for women suffering from severe mental illness, or for cases of rape or incest. Like HB 1157, this law is opposed by experts in the medical field such as American Psychological Association, National Physician’s Alliance, American Nurses Association, and ACOG, among others.

All in all, the South Dakota Legislature’s attacks on women were callous and legally unsound. This session emphasized what we already know: that politicians in Pierre are determined to making abortion so difficult to access that the right to choose becomes non-existent in our state. These attacks aren’t just cruel – they’re also at odds with the Constitution. We will continue to fight against these measures in our work, and we hope you’ll be there fighting with us.

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