msnbc.com news services
updated 6/30/2011 9:08:45 PM ET 2011-07-01T01:08:45

A federal judge on Thursday barred a tough new South Dakota abortion law from taking effect while it's being challenged in court.

The law, which would have taken effect Friday, requires women seeking abortions to face a three-day waiting period and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortion. The waiting period would have been the longest in the nation.

Also taking effect Friday is a strict new licensing law for abortion providers in Kansas. On Thursday, the state avoided becoming the first state without an abortion provider by granting a license to a Planned Parenthood clinic. The law's regulations also are being challenged in federal court.

Both laws are part of an unprecedented surge of anti-abortion legislation that has advanced through Republican-controlled legislatures in many states. Collectively, the measures create an array of new obstacles — legal, financial and psychological — for women seeking abortions and doctors performing them.

The tactics of other states that have passed anti-abortion legislation have varied: mandatory sonograms and anti-abortion counseling, sweeping limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

SD law unconstitutional?
In South Dakota, Planned Parenthood argued in a lawsuit that the law violates a woman's constitutional right to abortion established under the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

In her ruling, Chief Judge Karen Schreier said that Planned Parenthood demonstrated that  provisions of the law are "likely" unconstitutional, in particular the pregnancy help center requirement.

"Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being," read the court order, obtained by msnbc.com. "If the preliminary injunction is denied, many women will have been denied their right to free speech and effectively forced against their will to remain pregnant until they give birth."

Read the South Dakota abortion law order (PDF)

Schreier let stand a small part of the law allowing pregnancy help centers to register with the state, but she suspended all the sections that require women to consult with those centers.

Mimi Liu, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, argued the provider's case in court.

"It would force our patients to discuss their most private medical information with an unlicensed, non-medical group that is opposed to abortion," Liu said in a statement.

Licensing showdown in Kansas
Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, confirmed it had received a license under the new Kansas law.

The new rules from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment tell abortion providers what drugs and equipment they must have on hand, how big some of their rooms must be and the temperatures allowed in procedure and recovery rooms.

Fearing that it would not get a permit for its clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City. The filing came only hours after a state board granted the health department final approval to impose its rules.

The state's two other providers, also in the Kansas City area, were involved in a separate federal lawsuit filed earlier this week. A hearing in that case was scheduled for Friday.

Brownlie said the group would withdraw its lawsuit because it was getting the license.

"It confirms what we knew all along, that we provide high-quality health care," Brownlie said. "We're glad to be able to keep meeting the needs of our patients."

The state's two other clinics have not been inspected for licensing under the new law.

Protection for patients?
Supporters contend the Kansas licensing process and the new regulations will protect patients from substandard care. But legislators enacted the law lacking hard statistics on whether women having abortions face a significantly higher risk of complications and death than patients having surgical procedures in doctor's offices and clinics. Further, abortion rights advocates see the rules are a pretext for ending abortion services.

The health department is using an expedited process to impose the rules for four months, until it solicits public comments and considers changes. Department officials contend the fast track is necessary because the law requires the licensing process to be in place by Friday.

Abortion-rights advocates contend a rush by the department to impose its rules deprived the providers of due legal process. Virginia lawmakers enacted a licensing law late last year, and Utah legislators this spring, but neither state expects to have more detailed regulations in place until next year.

Supporters of SD law 'in it for long haul'
In South Dakota, supporters of the three-day waiting period say the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls gives women little information or counseling before they have abortions done by doctors flown in from out of state. They say the bill would help make sure women are not being coerced into abortions by boyfriends or relatives.

Leslee Unruh, founder of the Alpha Center pregnancy help center and supporter of the law, said that Schreier's decision was not a surprise and her organization plans to intervene on Friday.

"We're in it for the long haul," Unruh said after the ruling Thursday.

Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said the law represents a blatant intrusion by politicians into difficult decisions that women and families sometimes need to make.

"We trust women and families in South Dakota to know and do what is best for them, without being coerced by the government. And we stand with them in our efforts to overturn this outrageous law," Stoesz said in a statement.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report

Video: Kansas GOP uses red tape to restrict abortion rights

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