The tough new abortion law passed by the South Dakota Legislature and recently signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard has ignited debate across the country. The 72-hour wait for an abortion in South Dakota, along with mandatory counseling at a state-approved anti-abortion center, make this law one of the strictest in the nation.
While we will not solve the abortion issue today in this space, we will argue against this law because it is the antithesis of everything the governor and state lawmakers have told us were their priorities during this long legislative session.
First and foremost is cost. Just a few weeks ago, Daugaard espoused a tough, across-the-board 10 percent cut to all state agencies and departments to deal with the state’s $127 million deficit. Nothing was off limits: education, Medicaid, courts, Game, Fish and Parks, you name it.
Now, within all that the cutting, the Legislature passes a bill with an unknown cost for implementation.
No one from the governor’s office has said how much money it will take to certify or regulate the previously independent crisis pregnancy centers that soon will be tasked with counseling pregnant women seeking abortions. If a local crisis pregnancy center is in danger of closing, will the state be responsible for funding it? If every center in the state were to close, would South Dakota then have to hire staff and build brick-and-mortars to satisfy its own law?
While the costs associated with crisis pregnancy center funding is still an unknown, what is known is that the state will have to defend itself in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 1217. The American Civil Liberties Union has already said it will file a lawsuit. Can the state afford a legal challenge? Daugaard and Rep. Roger Hunt, the bill’s prime sponsor, have said there are “private funds” pledged to defend the law, but that is of small comfort. Where were all these “private funds” when our state was faced with a financial crisis much bigger than the defense of one law?
And how are we to believe anything Daugaard said about the state’s financial mess when he now tells citizens, “Don’t worry, we’ve got the money to handle this”? A lawsuit on this issue is likely to be protracted — and costly. We are to believe an anonymous donor has us all covered over the long haul? A bigger savings still would be to avoid passing laws that open South Dakota up to legal challenges that must be defended.
Speaking of lawsuits, South Dakota is one of 26 states across the country suing the federal government over the health care bill. Amazingly, at the same time, the state has now inserted itself in the middle of a health issue, creating a new layer of government bureaucracy between a patient and her doctor.
That doesn’t sound like “small government” to us.
We have been generally supportive of Daugaard’s aggressive plan for state cuts to balance the budget. We’ve argued against government waste, additional oversight or added expense in this time of belt-tightening. We’ve argued against bills brought forth by legislators for nothing more than to make moral points unrelated to the serious fiscal situation in South Dakota.
With this one law, our state Legislature put all those concerns aside to inject itself into yet another social issue that doesn’t save residents money or put them to work. That Gov. Daugaard signed off on it is, in many ways, surprising, considering his focus on the budget first and foremost. Adding this new oversight is counter to the financial health of South Dakota.