Ban proposed on abortions after 20 weeks

2011-12-26T05:00:00Z 2012-01-05T02:21:05Z Ban proposed on abortions after 20 weeksDavid Montgomery Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 26, 2011 5:00 am  • 

Anti-abortion groups plan a major push next year in the South Dakota Legislature to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

The bill is called a "fetal pain" measure and would be based on a similar bill passed in Nebraska in 2010. Such a bill would declare that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of development and that it is illegal to perform an abortion after that point.

“We are very seriously looking at having the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act entered in this year,” said Valerie Johnson, the education coordinator for South Dakota Right To Life and the South Dakota delegate to National Right To Life. “Not only would it save babies, but it would also (say) the state has an interest in a developing unborn child.”

It's unclear which lawmakers might come on board with such a bill. Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Sioux Falls, has sponsored many anti-abortion laws in the past. While Hunt said last week that he is working on an anti-abortion bill, he wouldn't yet disclose what it is.

"All I can really tell you at this point in time (is) it's going to be pro-life legislation," Hunt said.

Several other lawmakers said they've been involved in conversations about a fetal pain bill next year, though they're not personally taking the lead.

"I think there's a number of people who want to raise the fetal pain issue," said Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls.

Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, said he had also heard discussions about raising the fetal pain issue.

Such a ban would affect a relatively small percentage of South Dakota abortions. In 2009, the most recent year for which the state has data available, around 92 percent of South Dakota abortions were performed before the 13th week of pregnancy.

The department didn't immediately have data available on the 20th week of pregnancy, though Hickey said there were 12 instances of abortion after the 20th week in the most recent year. That would be about 1.5 percent of the state's annual abortion rate.

Johnson said there's a national push among anti-abortion groups to pass laws banning abortion after 20 weeks, when they say the fetus can feel pain.

Since Nebraska passed its law, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas and Indiana have passed similar legislation. The Minnesota legislature also passed a bill, but Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it.

Pro-abortion rights advocates criticized the proposal.

"I think South Dakotans are really, really tired of this issue, tired of this Legislature over and over bringing up bills to make women's access to health care more difficult," said Dr. Marvin Buehner, a Rapid City OB-GYN who performs medical abortions and has been an outspoken defender of abortion rights.

Jennifer Aulwes, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said she couldn't comment on specific legislation until her organization's attorneys examine it.

"Given these tough economic times, it's a shame that the Legislature would be wasting taxpayer dollars trying to create these kinds of barriers to women's health care," Aulwes said.

But anti-abortion advocates said legislation like this is of paramount importance.

"The life issue is critical," Hunt said. "I recognize that people sometimes would prefer not to think about pro-life issues, but nevertheless, the issue in and of itself is so critical and so important."

Rep. Don Kopp, R-Rapid City, said earlier this month that he believes it might be time for the state to take a break and let its current abortion laws work their way through the courts. But when told about the 20-week ban, Kopp said that sounds important enough that he could support it.

"I think that if you're saving a life, that's probably more important than lawsuits or money," he said.

Supporters of the fetal pain bill say it's based on sound science about when fetuses can feel pain.

"It's indisputable at 20 weeks," Johnson said.

But abortion rights supporters do dispute it.

"Although I can't say I'm an expert on the fetal pain issue, my understanding of the best literature regarding that issue is that whenever the ability to feel pain occurs, it's probably considerably after 20 weeks," Buehner said. "Bills like this are based on really questionable science."

Though her group is still trying to line up a lawmaker to sponsor the legislation, Johnson predicted that a fetal pain bill would pass.

"I get the sense that there is wide support for this bill," she said. "Everyone can relate to pain."

If the South Dakota Legislature does consider a fetal pain bill, it will be another brush with the controversial abortion issue. A 2005 anti-abortion law is currently tied up in a lawsuit, as is a 2011 law. Voters overturned a full ban on abortions at the ballot box in 2006, and rejected another ban with more exceptions two years later.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or


Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. Report Abuse
    - December 28, 2011 1:52 pm
    Read the Mt. Blogmore chain on this subject. There are some well-stated positions there which would be a good read for many here.
  2. qualitycaprine
    Report Abuse
    qualitycaprine - December 28, 2011 1:31 pm
    There are 800 abortions a year in SD?!?! I did not know you can even abort after 12 weeks. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant and my baby is kicking, active, and responds to nudges. How can anyone abort a healthy 20 week old fetus?
  3. reppstar
    Report Abuse
    reppstar - December 26, 2011 4:39 pm
    South Dakota lawmakers are clearly far more socially conservative than they are fiscally conservative. Why do people keep voting for these type of people?
  4. weqintr
    Report Abuse
    weqintr - December 26, 2011 4:08 pm
    Isaiah 5:20
  5. 196thlightinfantry
    Report Abuse
    196thlightinfantry - December 26, 2011 9:53 am
    Mr. Hunt is a certified fibber. The first big fib was when he and his supporters said that they had the dough in the bag to defend the first gizmo that was challenged and they failed. They failed to the point that Hunt's sidekick, Ole Denny Daugaard himself, is asking or telling us taxpayers that we are gonna have to foot the one million dollar lawsuit costs. If Mr. Hunt and Denny want to go for another drink at the well, they should be forced to put a surety bond up for 2 million bucks to pay for the fall out of yet another failed project.
  6. Eggman
    Report Abuse
    Eggman - December 26, 2011 9:39 am
    Enough already!! Talk about a waste of time and money, but then i guess conservatives are good at both.
  7. Just askin
    Report Abuse
    Just askin - December 26, 2011 9:30 am
    Just sayin!
    20 weeks today and if passed someone will be HUNTing for 13 weeks tomorrow.
  8. Jonnnn
    Report Abuse
    Jonnnn - December 26, 2011 9:12 am
    So if you discover the fetus is not viable out of the womb, and that discovery is after the 20 week - vassell, you will carry it to its natural, dead term. Save us from these compassionate conservatives.
  9. prairiemutt
    Report Abuse
    prairiemutt - December 26, 2011 8:43 am
    It's time for our government, state $ federal, to stop telling women what they can & can't do with their own bodies. And Roger Hunt needs to quit proposing laws that only effect him psychologically & spiritually. But yet not physically. I never heard of a man getting pregnant. Or did he "used to be" a woman or always "want to be" a woman? Or does Roger think that women aren't intelligent enough to make any decision about their bodies, so he has to step in and tell them what they can & can't do? With any luck the voters in his district won't re-elect this guy again. Maybe that will stop his anti-women laws.
  10. wheresthesunshine
    Report Abuse
    wheresthesunshine - December 26, 2011 8:14 am
    Wow, what a hate campaign against women! What if this was a law limiting the choices that people of other racial backgrounds were capable of making (why not make it illegal to consume alcohol while pregnant?)? The belief that abortion is wrong - and the belief that women are capable of making these difficult decisions on their own/with the aid of their physician or family are completely separate issues. Can South Dakota withstand further pressure from people who have desperate need of aid because they were forced into creating families against their better judgement? It's not as though South Dakota has strong programs promoting safe sex or abstinence to help prevent pregnancy!

    It's sexist and hateful to state that women simply need to keep their legs together. This is not just a women's issue (but the burden is), men are also responsible and need to be held accountable. Next time anyone gets indignant about the mistreatment of women in Muslim countries/families need to take a step back and consider in what ways they are impeding women's progress in our own country!
  11. Report Abuse
    - December 26, 2011 5:50 am
    Will Roger Hunt continue to sponser any anti-choice bill that he can dream up? Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?

    How many more millions of taxpayer dollars will the Legislature and the Governor continue to pour down that rabbit hole defending losing causes? Not one of those bills has any chance of passing muster with the current makeup of the US Supreme Court, and it would take many years (hopefully never) for the makeup of the Court to swing the other way.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick