Lawsuit planned if abortion bill signed

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota announced Thursday that it plans to sue the state if Gov. Dennis Daugaard signs a controversial abortion bill passed last week by the Legislature.

House Bill 1217 would require women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours and consult with a counselor at a pregnancy help center before the procedure.

“Our legal team has determined that this bill is such an egregious violation of the Constitution that we will file suit if the governor signs it,” Planned Parenthood media relations director Kathi Di Nicola said.

Tony Venhuizen, policy and communications director for the governor, said Planned Parenthood’s announcement will have no effect on the governor’s decision. Supporters of the bill made it clear that a legal challenge was probable from the beginning.

“The cost of litigation is something he’s considering, but the fact that a suit is pending won’t change things – we’ve always assumed that there would be,” Venhuizen said.

Daugaard has said he’s “inclined to sign” the bill, but he has until March 24 to make up his mind.

South Dakota has paid more than a half-million dollars in settlements to Planned Parenthood in abortion lawsuits during the past 15 years, Di Nicola said, and the group is challenging separate abortion restrictions enacted under Gov. Mike Rounds’ administration. The ballot box defeat in 2006 and 2008 of two separate abortion bans is proof that South Dakota residents don’t want to pay for any more contentious abortion legislation, Di Nicola said.

“The people have spoken on this matter,” she said.

The group’s confidence in a legal challenge to the South Dakota law got a boost last week when U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled in favor of a Planned Parenthood challenge to a similar law in Nebraska and ordered the state to pay $136,000 in legal fees to the reproductive health organization and abortion provider.

There is $14,500 in South Dakota’s public legal defense fund. HB1217’s prime sponsor, Republican Rep. Roger Hunt of Brandon, and others have said that the bill’s purpose is to ensure a woman isn’t pressured into a quick abortion.

http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011103110301

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