PIERRE, S.D. — The most controversial parts of South Dakota’s 2011 abortion law will remain blocked but provisions dealing with doctors’ consultations with women seeking abortions can take effect, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier issued an order saying that as of July 1, the state could begin requiring doctors who perform abortions to first assess women to determine if they have been coerced into getting abortions or are at risk of suffering psychological problems if they undergo the procedure.
However, the judge kept in place a court order that temporarily blocks provisions that require women seeking abortions to wait three days — the nation’s longest waiting period — and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortions. Those provisions will remain blocked until a final decision is made in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood that challenges the law.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the Wednesday ruling, agreed to by all parties in the lawsuit, will begin the process of determining whether a woman is being pressured into getting an abortion.
“What this does is it at least in part achieves the legislative objective of having a doctor performing abortions make certain disclosures to better ensure it is a voluntary and informed decision,” Jackley said.
Planned Parenthood did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The South Dakota Legislature passed the law last year, but Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit arguing that it placed an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to an abortion. Schreier last year prevented much of the law from taking effect, including the three-day waiting period and the consultations with pregnancy help center. The judge ruled that those provisions are likely to be found unconstitutional because they could violate a woman’s right to choose an abortion and her right to free speech.
However, the Legislature this year amended parts of last year’s law dealing with a woman’s consultation with a doctor at an abortion clinic.
Planned Parenthood then amended its lawsuit to drop objections to the new language covering doctors’ consultations with women. Planned Parenthood, the state and two pregnancy help centers involved in the lawsuit then agreed that the judge could allow that new language to take effect.
Supporters of the law contend the counseling at pregnancy help centers will prevent women from being pressured into getting abortions they don’t want. Opponents argue the counseling sessions would be used to pressure women out of having abortions.