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South Dakota becomes 13th state to adopt 20-week abortion ban

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard Associated Press/Photo by James Nord

South Dakota becomes 13th state to adopt 20-week abortion ban

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law a 20-week abortion ban Thursday, making it the 13th state to pass similar legislation since 2010. The bill’s passage has added impetus to the call for a nationwide 20-week abortion ban.

The legislation, known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, bans abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, when unborn children have developed the ability to feel pain. Based on model National Right to Life (NRLC) legislation, South Dakota’s new law includes an exception for medical emergencies but not rape or incest. It takes effect July 1.

State Rep. Isaac Latterell, a Republican and the primary House sponsor, said the bill will promote the humanity of the unborn.

“I think it’ll save lives because it lets women know that their children really are humans just like us,” he said. “I think it’s a great step forward for our state, and I would like to see us do more to protect the innocent.”

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin already have similar legislation, with Nebraska passing the first in 2010. Courts have blocked the legislation in Arizona, Idaho, and Georgia.

But Daugaard is “sure” South Dakota’s attorney general “will be prepared to defend the constitutionality of the bill,” said spokeswoman Kelsey Pritchard.

Abortion advocates in the state call the bill intrusive and contest research showing an unborn infant’s ability to feel pain at 20 weeks gestation.

“This is just another bill that puts politicians in the way of women’s personal medical decisions,” said Timothy Stanley of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

But pro-life advocates view the bill as a success for South Dakota.

“I’m thrilled the governor signed the bill,” Fred Deutsch, president of South Dakota Right to Life, told LifeSiteNews. “This legislation begins a new chapter in the history of South Dakota.”

Abortions after the 20-week threshold are now considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. Abortionists who violate the law could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The mother doesn’t face penalties.

According to the regional Planned Parenthood, the state’s only abortion facility in Sioux Falls doesn’t perform abortions after the 14th week of pregnancy.

The 20-week abortion ban also marks the fourth pro-life bill passed by the South Dakota legislature this legislative session. The state also passed an informed consent law requiring abortionists to inform women that chemical abortions can be reversed; a law requiring the state health department to make its records on abortion facility inspections public; and a law criminalizing the sale of aborted baby body parts.

In South Carolina, the state Senate also passed a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act last week. It now heads to the House for approval. Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said the state momentum toward passing the legislation indicates it’s time to bring it back at the federal level.

“A nationwide limit would save up to 18,000 unborn lives a year and protect many women,” she said. “The federal legislation has passed the U.S. House twice, received majority bipartisan support in its first ever vote in the Senate, and has the support of the majority of Americans, women in even higher numbers than men. This consensus stand is not only morally just, it is smart politics.”

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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