Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday seeking to block a South Dakota law that would require women seeking abortions to face the nation's longest waiting period — three days — and undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortion.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge to suspend the law from taking effect until a final ruling on whether the new law, set to take effect July 1, violates a woman's constitutional right to abortion established under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.
The legal challenge was filed in Sioux Falls, where Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota operates South Dakota's only abortion clinic.
During this year's legislative session, supporters said the measure was needed to ensure no woman has been coerced into having an abortion.
The lawsuit contends the law violates a woman's legal right to abortion by imposing "the most extreme mandatory delay in the country." The measure also interferes with a woman's right to privacy and violates the free-speech rights of women and their doctors, the lawsuit says.
"This law goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship and putting women and families at risk," Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said in a written statement.
The private, nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers located in South Dakota's largest cities have delayed registering with the state to provide the counseling required under the law, partly because they expect the measure to be suspended during the court battle.
The law says an abortion can only be scheduled by a doctor who has personally met with a woman and determined she is voluntarily seeking the procedure. It cannot be performed until at least 72 hours after that first consultation.
The woman also would have to consult with a pregnancy help center, all of which encourage women to give birth. The centers would determine if a woman is being pressured to have an abortion and tell her about services available to help her give birth and keep a child.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union also took part in filing the lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood.
Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law plays politics with women's health issues.
"It is demeaning for the government to force a woman to visit a non-medical facility with a political agenda when she is making one of the most personal medical decisions of her life," Amiri said in a written statement. "We hope the court will stop the law from going into effect."