South Dakota on Thursday became the latest state to pass a pain-capable abortion ban, when Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks.
The legislation penalizes doctors who perform or attempt to perform such abortions in non-emergency situations. Violators would be subject to penalties of up to a year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both, according to the Argus Leader.
“It’s a great day for South Dakota,” said Debbie Pease, a lobbyist for South Dakota Right to Life. “Our hope is that this is going to save the lives of babies by decreasing the number of abortions.”
Pro-choice advocates were quick to denounce the bill as anti-women. Timothy Stanley, senior director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said the bill infringes on the rights of women to make health care decisions.
“This is just another bill that puts politicians in the way of women’s personal medical decisions,” Mr. Stanley told The Associated Press. “I think this bill could do tremendous harm to the women who are the most vulnerable in the state of South Dakota.”
South Dakota has only one abortion clinic remaining — a Planned Parenthood facility in Sioux Falls, which only performs abortions up to 14 weeks gestation. But the law seeks to bar future attempts to perform abortions where the fetus can feel pain.
Whether a child in the womb can feel pain at 20 weeks is disputed by scientists. Dr. Steven Zielinksi, a physician from Oregon, has testified before Congress that unborn children can feel pain as early as “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and are capable of crying in the womb under some circumstances.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, says children are unlikely to feel pain for several weeks after the 20-week benchmark.
South Dakota is the thirteenth state to pass such a law. Courts have attempted to block similar laws in several states, but the governor’s office said it was ready to defend the bill if its constitutionality is challenged.