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8th Circuit dismisses challenge to South Dakota law that requires a pregnant woman to consult with a pregnancy help center before undergoing an abortion

by | Oct 7, 2022

Culminates 11 year long legal fight

By Dave Andrusko

Good news from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith, Judges Duane Benton, and Bobby E. Shepherd issued judgments dismissing the case and vacated an injunction that had blocked enforcement of a requirement that a pregnant woman consult with a pregnancy help center before undergoing an abortion.

Judge Karen Schreier [a Clinton appointee] had issued the original injunction in 2011 and reaffirmed her conclusion last December.

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.

According to its court filing South Dakota saw the issues very much differently than did Judge Schreier:

The record in this case reveals that pregnant women are being railroaded into abortions they do not want. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota (PPMNS), focused on the volume of abortions and bottom line revenue, cannot be counted on properly to inform a pregnant woman’s consent to abortion or to screen for or prevent coercion, and in fact will facilitate coerced abortions. To protect women against coerced abortions and to fill the void created by PPMNS’s deficient informed consent and screening practices, South Dakota enacted a statutory program providing women considering abortion free counseling at independent, third party, tightly regulated pregnancy help centers (PHCs). PPMNS challenged the third party counseling requirement as unconstitutionally compelling speech and unduly burdening abortion.  The district court granted a preliminary injunction in 2011 and, in 2021, after ten years of discovery and statutory amendments, denied defendants’ and intervenors’ joint motion to dissolve that injunction.

The 8th Circuit’s decision dismissing the lawsuit was just two paragraphs long. According to Bloomberg Law

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit removed two appeals from its calendar, one filed by the state and one filed by crisis counselors Alpha Center and Black Hills Pregnancy Centers. They had been set for oral argument on Oct. 18.

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