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S.D. law brings crisis pregnancy centers

Associated Press / June 27, 2011

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The small sign outside the Alpha Center in Sioux Falls lists a roster of available services: “Free pregnancy tests, abortion information, STD testing.’’

Inside the brick building, women can get a free ultrasound and hear about birth programs. But if you’re a woman looking for help finding a legal abortion, you’ve come to the wrong place. Nowhere within this crisis pregnancy center will a visitor find help getting an abortion, in part because a new state law would make such referrals illegal.

The center, which says its goal is to counsel and educate pregnant women, is one of three statewide that have signed up so far to be a required stop for those seeking an abortion if South Dakota’s new abortion law survives legal challenges.

The state’s new law requires women seeking abortions to first participate in one free counseling session at a pregnancy help center, defined as an organization that does not offer abortion referrals but works “to educate, counsel, and otherwise assist women [to keep] their relationship with their unborn children.’’ The centers would determine whether a woman is being pressured to have an abortion and provide information to help her give birth and keep a child.

The law also establishes the nation’s longest waiting period, at three days, by prohibiting an abortion from being performed until 72 hours after a woman meets with an abortion clinic doctor.

Backers say the law is needed because many women are pressured by husbands, boyfriends, or parents to seek abortions.

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