Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill requiring all women in South Dakota to submit to consultation with a pregnancy crisis center at least 72 hours before being allowed to have an abortion.
Chairman Roger Hunt, the prime sponsor of this bill, allowed 10 people to testify in favor and only four in opposition. Despite the fact that a New Jersey resident was allowed to speak at length in favor of the bill, I was denied the opportunity to testify in opposition. If I had been allowed to testify, this is what I would have said:
I have known "Terry" for 15 years. As her obstetrician, I cared for her during multiple miscarriages, until she finally had a successful kidney transplant. Then, knowing the risks of transplant rejection, severe preeclampsia, seizures or even death, she chose pregnancy again.
Her pregnancy went well until 25 weeks, when she developed severe life-threatening preeclampsia, and delivered via Cesarean section. After months in the neonatal intensive care unit, her baby went home with a relieved and healthy mother.
Several years later, while using an effective form of birth control, Terry became pregnant again. Now a mother of a small premature child that she supported on her own with two jobs, she was facing the very real possibility of losing her kidney or a recurrence of the preeclampsia that could lead to her total disability or death.
Though philosophically uncomfortable with the issue of abortion, Terry came to me to ask about risks of this pregnancy compared with the risks of termination. After extensive discussion and many tears, she decided that her responsibility to her family was paramount. She chose to terminate the pregnancy. Twice the people of South Dakota soundly defeated attempts by the South Dakota legislature to severely restrict access to abortion services. Still that legislature has created 52 statutes under the heading of Performance of Abortion attempting to do just that.
One requires physicians to complete 13 pages of forms with every patient in addition to the process that physicians are ethically and legally bound to perform for every procedure.
Before Terry could have an abortion to protect her health and life, she and I completed more than 25 pages of state-mandated forms that required me to give her information that is patently false. Failure to complete them precisely can result in investigation, fines and civil or criminal liability.
Under this new bill, Terry would have been forced to submit to "consultation" with a state-approved "pregnancy help center," whose central mission is to persuade her to carry her pregnancy to term. Because the information dispensed by these centers is not regulated, she may have been forced to hear that the risk of abortion is greater than carrying to term, that she will get breast cancer, or that she is selfish and immoral -all cruel and false assertions that are common among these centers. She would have to wait three more days.
Though this bill's stated purpose is to prevent coercion of women with unplanned pregnancies, it instead mandates government sponsored coercion of those women by anti-abortion clinics.
The South Dakota State Medical Association opposes this bill. No other medical or surgical procedure has this kind of regulatory interference. No other procedure has a mandatory waiting period. Even for women without compelling medical issues, this bill represents hypocritical governmental interference into the most personal of medical matters.
Please urge your representatives to defeat HB 1217 immediately. Enough is enough.
This Forum piece is written by Marvin Buehner, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist practicing in Rapid City.