PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill seeking to prohibit abortions sought because of a fetus’s gender was approved Wednesday by the South Dakota House, despite opponents’ arguments that such a ban would be impossible to enforce.
Representatives voted 60-10 to send the measure to the Senate for further debate.
Supporters said people in some Asian nations are aborting female fetuses because they want sons and the practice could spread to South Dakota.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, said such abortions amount to sex discrimination.
Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, tried unsuccessfully to change the bill so it would have said only that the state does not support abortions based on a fetus’s gender and discourages such abortions. Her proposed change was defeated on a 55-15 vote.
Gibson said a ban on abortions based on a fetus’s gender could never be enforced because a woman could not be forced to acknowledge that’s why she was seeking to end a pregnancy. She said there’s no evidence that any woman in South Dakota has ever sought an abortion because the fetus was not the gender she wanted.
The bill would make it a Class 6 felony, carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $4,000 fine, for a doctor to knowingly perform or attempt an abortion sought because of a fetus’s gender. In addition to questions doctors already have to ask women seeking abortions, they also would have to ask women whether they had used a test to determine a fetus’s gender and whether the abortion was sought because of that gender.
South Dakota already requires women seeking abortions to wait at least three days after first seeing a doctor. A 2001 law also requires women to undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers, which discourage abortion, before they can terminate a pregnancy. The counseling requirement, imposed to determine whether a woman is being coerced into getting an abortion, is still being challenged in federal court. A judge there has temporarily blocked it.