South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) has approved a measure to extend the state’s abortion waiting period, which is already one of the longest in the country. Under the new law, weekends and holidays won’t count toward the 72-hour waiting period required for women seeking abortions — which means that some women may be forced to wait up to six days if they seek abortion services before a three-day weekend.
Mandatory waiting periods are a popular tactic among abortion opponents. Designed to shame women out of their decision to terminate a pregnancy, waiting periods require women to seek counseling and repeatedly verify their consent before proceeding with the voluntary medical procedure. South Dakota’s law — which has thus far been tied up in court as women’s health advocates challenge its provisions — actually requires women to visit a biased, anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center” (CPC). Proponents of the new law claim it will help ensure that women have enough time to schedule an appointment with a CPC during their business hours.
But there’s no reason to force women to wait longer to access legal abortion services. Waiting periods and forced “counseling” sessions don’t actually change women’s minds about whether they want to have an abortion. And waiting periods actually cause emotional and financial hardships for women.
According to a new study that surveyed the effects of mandatory 24-hour waiting periods, forcing women to put off an abortion — denying them the bodily autonomy to decide when they want to terminate a pregnancy — negatively effects most women’s emotional well-being. When women are required to make multiple trips to a clinic, they also end up having to pay for extra transportation and child care on top of the cost of the abortion procedure. Of course, South Dakota’s law is even more stringent than the 24-hour waiting period that provided the subject for that study.
And now that South Dakota will also exclude weekends and holidays from its unnecessary waiting period, the women seeking reproductive care will face an even bigger burden. No other state limits its waiting period to business hours simply to accommodate the schedules of right-wing CPCs — but South Dakota Republicans have made it clear they would rather prioritize their anti-abortion agenda over women’s health.