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Legislature readily approves broader abortion restrictions

PIERRE — The Legislature increased restrictions against abortions in South Dakota in the 2016 session.

But the six measures that passed didn't receive public attention to the degree some other topics did, such as education funding and transgender bathroom restrictions.

That partly reflects how strongly anti-abortion the Legislature has grown in the past few decades. One of the few abortion-rights supporters left, Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell, D-Sioux Falls, isn't seeking re-election.

South Dakota Right to Life backed four pieces of legislation that Gov. Dennis Daugaard has signed into law, including the fetal-pain measure that bans most abortions starting in week 20 of a pregnancy. The existing law was 24 weeks.

"From our perspective, it was one of the most successful sessions in many years," Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, said. He is Right to Life's state president.

Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, was prime sponsor of SB 72, the fetal-pain ban. The three other bills backed by Right to Life were:

• Information must be presented to women that a drug-induced abortion can be discontinued. Prime sponsor of HB 1157 was Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau;

• Prohibit sale of fetal body parts. SB 24 was requested by state Attorney General Marty Jackley; and

• Require the state Health Department to post its abortion-clinic inspection reports on its website. Prime sponsor of HB 1123 was Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls.

Deutsch said work began last summer on the package.

Legislators also approved two other abortion-related measures.

One expands the people eligible to provide mandatory pre-abortion counseling at pregnancy help centers. Added to the list are licensed certified social workers and licensed social workers.

Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, was prime sponsor of that measure, HB 1212. The governor hadn't indicated as of Tuesday morning whether he planned to sign it into law.

Hunt also was prime sponsor of legislation that provides medical care for unborn children whose mothers aren't eligible for Medicaid assistance because of their citizenship status.

The pre-natal care legislation prohibits public funding for abortions. The governor has signed the measure, HB 1110, into law.

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