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Criticism of Planned Parenthood steps closer to governor's desk

South Dakota's Capitol as pictured in this file photo. (Daily Republic file photo)

PIERRE — State lawmakers who favor outlawing most abortions in South Dakota gained another small step Tuesday.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 9-2 to endorse a measure that repeatedly criticizes Planned Parenthood.

It also would establish further requirements for pregnant women to receive counseling before proceeding to abortions.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls is the only known general provider of abortions in South Dakota.

SB 110 faces a final vote in the House of Representatives, possibly as early as Wednesday.

If the House approves the bill in its current form, the next stop is Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Rep. Steve Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, is the lead House sponsor. Prime sponsor is Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen.

South Dakota voters a decade ago rejected statewide bans two elections in a row.

Haugaard testified Tuesday that the bill is a response to what lawyers learned in the discovery stage of the federal court fight over a previous abortion restriction the Legislature passed. Planned Parenthood wasn't making an "honest" effort to provide pre-abortion counseling, Haugaard said.

South Dakota law requires a 72-hour waiting period between a counseling session and the abortion that could follow. Elements of the law are headed toward a federal trial that could occur later this year.

Opponents said Tuesday that SB 110's passage could further complicate the proceeding.

Planned Parenthood supporters wearing pink T-shirts dotted the committee room. But no one from Planned Parenthood testified against the legislation.

The clinic reportedly brings medical doctors to Sioux Falls to perform abortions.

No one spoke for Planned Parenthood, either, during the Feb. 2 hearing by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The Senate panel amended the bill somewhat that day and endorsed it 6-2. The full Senate passed it 27-8 on Feb. 6.

Objections from opponents Tuesday focused on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and its guarantee of free speech.

They also said SB 110 would violate separation of church and state that is a principle for the federal government.

Haugaard, a lawyer, said he's appeared several times before the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. He said the legislation doesn't raise the free speech issue.

The complaint the legislation would blur the line between church and state was "a fiction," Haugaard said.

"The focus here is on human life," Haugaard said.

More than 40,000 abortions occurred in South Dakota since the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, he said.

Findings are in different types of legislation year after year, according to Haugaard. He said those about Planned Parenthood are based on discovery in the court fight.

"It's a matter of judicial record at this point. This is what's going on," Haugaard said.

Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown, called an opponent back to the witness chair and read the sentence the state law requires about an abortion taking the life of a human being.

"Is that true or false?" York asked.

Kelly Landeen, a University of South Dakota fourth-year medical student, replied: "Answering on behalf of myself, I'd disagree with that statement."

York asked the same question of Dr. Glenn Ridder, medical director for a pregnancy-help center in Sioux Falls. He said it was true.

"Without a doubt, yes," Ridder said.

He added, "A person is a person, no matter how small."