What It Takes To Get An Abortion In South Dakota


As you may know, South Dakota recently passed a law that requires women seeking an abortion to attend counseling at a pregnancy help center (that’s a first) and to wait 72 hours before getting the procedure (and that’s the longest waiting period in the country).

Planned Parenthood is planning to sue, calling the law “an egregious violation of the Constitution.” But for now, the new law goes into effect in July. When that happens, what exactly will it take to get an abortion in South Dakota?

Well, let’s imagine that you are a 25 year-old woman living in Faith, South Dakota. You are pregnant, and you would like to get this bun out of your oven.

Unfortunately, there is only one abortion provider in all of South Dakota — the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood.

Sioux Falls is about six hours and 348 miles away. Assuming you’ll pay $3.55 for a gallon of gas, it’ll cost about $56 round trip. And although there are other pregnancy help centers in South Dakota—the closest, two hours away—you decide it’s less hassle to do everything in one place.

In Sioux Falls, you first visit a doctor. As per the new law, there’s a laundry list of items you two must discuss. This includes:

  • The notion (fact?) that an “abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being”
  • That an abortion will strip your constitutional right to a relationship with your child.
  • The medical risks associated with abortions, which, according to South Dakota legislature, include suicide and infertility.

Your doctor also assesses your “circumstances” to ensure that no one is coercing you to have an abortion, and gives you a medical exam to check for any of the risk factors associated with having an abortion.

An hour later, you sign a mountain of paperwork, fork over a $20 copay, and, as required, leave with contact information for a few pregnancy help centers. Stepping out that door begins the 72-hour waiting period before you can have an abortion.

In the spirit of expediency, you travel straight to the pregnancy help center. Your counselor aims to provide “education, counseling and general assistance to help maintain your relationship with your unborn child.” The discussion is, in fact, quite similar to the one you just had with your doctor – but this counselor cannot provide medical services or referrals to abortion providers. In fact, this counselors purpose, according to the new law, is “to help the pregnant mother keep and care for her child” (italics ours).

After about an hour, you leave the pregnancy help center. And you wait. You camp out at the Sioux Falls Motel 6 ($45 a night). Since they don’t have kitchens, you eat out alone or hole up with in your room with fast food and Judge Judy reruns, spending, either lonely way, another $15 a day on food.

After 72 hours, you head to Planned Parenthood for your abortion. “Would you like a medical or surgical abortion?” they say. The medical abortion costs between $350 and $650, and involves taking a pill to break down the lining of your uterus. A surgical abortion costs between $450 and $940, and uses a suction device to empty the contents of your uterus.

Since you’re under nine weeks pregnant, you take the pill. On your drive home to Faith, you feel cramps, and you bleed. In your purse lies the number for Planned Parenthood’s recommended “after-abortion hotline,” Exhale — a hotline for emotional counseling.

When all is said and done, you’ve spent at least $800 and a week’s worth of time to have your abortion — not to mention the unimaginable emotional and physical stress you’ve gone through.

“I think everyone agrees with the goal of reducing abortion by encouraging consideration of other alternatives,” Gov. Daugaard said, upon passing this law. “I hope that women who are considering an abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.”

Research by Rachel Slaff and Amanda Holpuch.

This post is a product of the Building a Better Explainer project at N.Y.U.’s Studio 20.

Sources: Planned Parenthood of South Dakota, Kayak.com

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