South Dakota lawmakers debate abortion, pregnancy bills

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Sioux Falls, SD This year South Dakota lawmakers have considered four bills that target pregnant woman.

"It was a bill that would have provided accommodations in the workplace for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers," NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota Executive Director Samantha Spawn said.

House Bill 1120, the measure that would have provided some employment protections for expecting mothers, failed to pass a house committee Monday.

But House Bill 1101 and Senate Bill 102, measures that further restrict abortions, have already made it passed the committee level with strong support.

“It’s absolutely hypocritical and a case of misplaced priorities when they are going to insist that women need to carry out all of their pregnancies but yet at the same time provide no protection for these mothers,” Spawn said.

A third bill with enhanced restriction for abortions has yet to be discussed in the state legislature.

“I think the public needs to be aware that this is something that is legal today and is definitely not something that should be legal,” Republican Representative Isaac Latterell said.

House Bill 1189 would make it illegal for healthcare providers to perform dismemberment abortions, a procedure performed during a woman's second trimester of pregnancy.

“There are no elective procedures of this type being done in South Dakota, so this would only affect women who have complicated pregnancies where the procedures would only be done to save their life or to protect the irreversible harm to a major body function,” Dr. Marvin Buehner with Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology said.

Buehner is one of 87 South Dakota OBYGN professionals represented by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who are opposed to the bill. These healthcare professionals say state law already bans the elective use of this procedure; they believe the proposed law would open up the possibility for doctors to be prosecuted for doing their jobs.

“There's a pattern of our legislature trying to legislate medical care for women with complicated pregnancies and that should be left up to the doctors who have training and experience for this and the patients who are making decisions for their own healthcare,” Dr. Buehner said.

The ACOG of South Dakota sent a letter to the state House expressing their opposition to HB 1189: “We are alarmed at this attempt to interfere in the patient-physician relationship by prohibiting physicians from providing safe, evidence-based health care to women in the state of South Dakota”

Rep. Latterell argues the bill does exempt pregnant woman having a medical emergency defined by state law, but that does not extend to an unborn child.

“If you and I have something going on, if we have a medical problem, does that mean someone should come and take our life?” Latterell said. “I don't believe that is a logical solution.”

Latterell says the bill has bipartisan support and he hopes to see it pass in South Dakota this legislative session.