South Dakota Republicans aren’t satisfied with imposing one of the nation’s longest waiting periods for women seeking abortions. As RH Reality Check reports, the state legislature will also consider a bill that would adopt a “business hours only” definition for its waiting period: while women wait the state-mandated three days before getting an abortion, weekends and holidays won’t count toward fulfilling that quota.
South Dakota’s extreme waiting period was enacted in 2011 and has been tied up in court for the past year — but since Planned Parenthood recently decided to drop the case in order to focus their resources on more pressing attacks to women’s health in the region, it may soon take effect. But on top of the restrictive law itself, RH Reality Check points out that a new bill seeks to further clarify the strict parameters of the 72-hour waiting period:
No surgical or medical abortion may be scheduled except by a licensed physician and only after the physician physically and personally meets with the pregnant mother, consults with her, and performs an assessment of her medical and personal circumstances. […] No Saturday, Sunday, federal holiday, or state holiday may be included or counted in the calculation of the seventy-two hour minimum time period between the initial physician consultation and assessment and the time of the scheduled abortion procedure. No physician may have the pregnant mother sign a consent for the abortion on the day of this initial consultation.
Mandatory counseling sessions and waiting periods are simply methods of limiting women’s reproductive rights, and they don’t actually help women decide whether or not to have an abortion. Women can make up their own minds, and studies show that nearly 90 percent of the women seeking an abortion already feel very confident about their decision when they first approach their doctors. Unnecessary roadblocks that attempt to shame them out of having the voluntary medical procedure don’t actually work, and simply end up creating outsized barriers for low-income women who may not be able to make multiple trips to a health clinic.
Excluding weekends and holidays from South Dakota’s unnecessary waiting period puts an even bigger burden on women seeking reproductive care, and there’s no good justification for it. RH Reality Check notes that no other state with this restrictive policy defines their waiting period in this way.