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Longer waiting period for abortions now awaits a decision from governor

PIERRE -- It's now up to Gov. Dennis Daugaard whether women seeking abortions in South Dakota will sometimes need to wait longer than 72 hours after their consultation with the doctor.

A spokesman said Thursday the governor supports the concept of not counting Saturdays, Sundays and annual holidays as part of the 72-hour waiting period that's currently in state law.

The purpose of the waiting period is to allow time for women to seek counseling from abortion help centers that is required in state law.

The state Senate voted 24-9 Thursday to give final legislative approval to the weekend and holiday exemption. The House of Representatives previously had voted for it 56-13.

The measure now heads to the governor's desk for his decision.

He has four choices: Sign it into law, or allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it outright, or ask for small, technical changes through what's known as a style and form veto.

Throughout his 17 years as a state senator, lieutenant governor and now governor, Daugaard has been an opponent of legalized abortion.

He signed into law the 2011 legislation creating the counseling and waiting period requirements.

Abortion-rights opponents seemed confident throughout this session he would ultimately support the weekend-and-holidays exclusion. Their trust seemed well-placed Thursday.

"He's been supportive of the general concept but wants to listen to the testimony and the debates and read the final legislation," his spokesman Tony Venhuizen said.

The legislation, HB 1237, was sponsored by Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, the community near where the Daugaard family previously lived.