South Dakota appeals decision blocking requirement that pregnant women meet with pregnancy help center counselors prior to a scheduled abortion

Pro-life South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-life advocates in South Dakota had waited patiently for almost a decade for a positive legal response to HB 1217, a law passed in 2011,which among other things required that a pregnant woman consult with a pregnancy help center, ensuring that she had all the facts available, before deciding whether or not to abort her unborn child.

But with Judge Karen Schreier [a Clinton appointee] involved, the chances were slim to none. True to form, last month Judge Schreier refused to dissolve the injunction she’d issued in June 2011 that blocked the consultation component. Fortunately, the three-day wait period eventually became law and remains in effect.

Yesterday, the office of pro-life Gov. Kristi Noem, who had already promised the state would appeal the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, announced that “Governor Noem and the State of South Dakota have retained attorney Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to join the State’s legal team in the ongoing Planned Parenthood v. Noem litigation.”

The appeal in Planned Parenthood v. Noem “seeks to uphold the South Dakota state law requiring that a pregnant woman consult with a pregnancy help center before deciding whether to abort her unborn child. This will ensure that women considering an abortion have all of the facts regarding their unborn child and the potential risks of an abortion procedure.”

“All life is precious. Mothers should have the opportunity to hear all relevant information before they are faced with the ‘choice’ of whether to end their unborn child’s life,” Gov. Noem said at the time of Judge Schreier’s decision. “I look forward to the day when all life – born and unborn – is protected by law.”

She added that Judge Schreier’s refusal to dissolve the injunction means “the law passed by the people’s representatives is suspended until a final court decision is rendered. In doing so, the Court rejected the will of the people when it comes to protecting unborn life.”

Judge Schreier’s 30-page decision was pro forma in every sense.

She tells us that “In the order granting preliminary injunction [handed down in 2011], the court… analyzed whether the pregnancy health center requirement operate[s] as a substantial obstacle to a woman’s choice to undergo an abortion ‘in a large fraction of the cases in which [it] is relevant,’ ” and is therefore invalid” [quoting another decision which quoted the Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey decision]. She also concluded the requirement “implicate[d] pregnant women’s free speech rights.”

Judge Schreier concluded the answer on both counts then and now was yes. Her conclusion read

No legal or factual change since the court’s preliminary injunction in 2011 warrants dissolution of the preliminary injunction of the pregnancy help center requirement. It continues to likely infringe on women’s right to free speech secured in the First Amendment, and it presents an undue burden on a woman’s right to access abortion.