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Senate committee endorses bill attacking 'Planned Parenthood'

PIERRE — Legislation that specifically names Planned Parenthood and claims the abortion provider hasn't adequately complied with South Dakota's counseling law advanced Friday.

The Senate State Affairs Committee recommended passage of SB 110. The full Senate could take it up as early as Tuesday afternoon.

The committee vote was 6-2. Prime sponsor is Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen. Besides making repeated accusations against Planned Parenthood, the bill seeks to expand legal authority for pregnancy help centers.

The centers would be required to provide a statement orally and in writing to the pregnant mother. The statement would say an abortion would terminate the life of "a whole, separate, unique, living human being" and the centers would be required to make certain the mothers understand the statement.

The bill also would require centers to discuss "the physical or psychological risks to a woman posed by an abortion."

Planned Parenthood at its Sioux Falls facility provides 98 percent of the abortions in South Dakota, according to the legislation. The term 'Planned Parenthood' was used at least nine times in the original bill that Novstrup filed.

At one point the legislation said Planned Parenthood personnel "have proven to be unreliable providers and counselors of the disclosures required" by South Dakota law.

The Legislature in 2013 required mandatory counseling 72 hours before an abortion. A federal court injunction has prevented the law from fully taking effect.

A federal trial could be scheduled this year.

The injunction likely would continue for years, until the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a decision in the case, according to Jon Hansen, a lawyer and former state legislator.

"I'm confident the portion of 1217 that is enjoined today will be lifted," Hansen told the senators, referring to the 2013 bill's number.

Novstrup said South Dakota's counseling requirement reduced abortions approximately 15 percent. He said 60 lives were saved, on average, per year.

"What we do does matter," he said.

Novstrup, during the question period, called Harold Cassidy, a New Jersey lawyer, to the witness dais.

Cassidy, who hadn't testified, said the bill's references to Planned Parenthood would provide official legislative findings that could be used in federal court.

Senate Republican leader Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, voted against the bill.

Curd listed many objections to the format and language. He said he couldn't find any other state law that listed the specific name of a company.

Heinert said the legislation wasn't necessary. "The avenue already is there," he said.

Passing the bill into state law would change the rules as the case goes to trial, according to Heinert.

Regarding the use of the term 'Planned Parenthood," he said: "I've never seen it, eight years here."

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