South Dakota Spends Big Taxpayer Bucks to Defend Anti-Abortion Laws


Anti-abortion lawmakers in South Dakota have been busy in the past few years passing bills that limit access to abortion, most of which end up in protracted legal battles. And all of that effort comes at a cost to taxpayers in the state: $750,000 in the first half of next year alone.

The state has also been in a lengthy legal battle over a 2005 law that required doctors to read women a specific script before performing an abortion. The script included a host of factually and legally questionable lines, which Planned Parenthood—the only abortion provider in the state—challenged in court. Part of the script was thrown out, but the case is back in the circuit court next month.

In order to foot the legal bills, Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard 2012 budget proposal includes a little over $1 million for the “Extraordinary Litigation Fund,” the Rapid City Journal reports. The biggest portion of that, $750,000, is to cover the costs related to the Planned Parenthood case through June. And if the state loses, it will also have to pay Planned Parenthood’s legal fees.

Earlier this year, the legislature also passed a new law requiring women to visit crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)—facilities that are most often run by anti-abortion groups—before obtaining an abortion. Under the law, a woman would need to first consult with the doctor providing the abortion, then visit a CPC, then wait 72 hours before undergoing the actual procedure. A judge granted a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of that law back in June, and it’s probably going to be thrown out entirely. The governor’s office says they aren’t expecting any more legal fees associated with that case.

The Rapid City Journal also notes that the state has set up an additional “Life Protection Fund” to defend its abortion-related laws, using private donations. The fund had $63,387 at last tally. Most interesting, however, is that the state’s voters rejected abortion bans at the polls in both 2006 and 2008, by a 12-point margin both times. But the state keeps fighting for draconian anti-choice laws—and spending taxpayer dollars to do it.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.