South Dakota already has the longest abortion waiting period in the country, forcing women to wait 72 hours before being able to access the legal medical procedure. But the Republicans in the state want to lengthen it even further — both chambers of the legislature have approved a measure to exclude weekends and holidays from that three-day waiting period, and the legislation now awaits Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s signature.
No other state with this particular abortion restriction defines its waiting period by limiting it to business hours. Proponents of the measure claim that the state needs to extend the 72-hour wait to give women seeking abortions enough time to seek counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC). In fact, CPCs are anti-choice organizations that have a long history of attempting to dissuade women from making their own reproductive choices, often by disseminating misleading medical information about abortions.
Although this type of emotional manipulation is a popular tactic among abortion opponents, forced counseling and waiting periods don’t actually change women’s minds about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. Mandatory waiting periods are simply a method of limiting women’s reproductive rights by forcing them to overcome additional hurdles to having a voluntary medical procedure.
That’s why South Dakota’s stringent 72-hour waiting period has been tied up in court for the past year — but, since the local women’s health groups are being forced to focus their resources on combating other pressing attacks on reproductive rights, the legal challenge has been dropped and the law may soon take effect. And if Daugaard adds his signature to the bill to exclude weekends and holidays, the law that takes effect will be even more restrictive than the original one.