PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's pregnancy help centers shouldn't be allowed to profit from lining up adoptions, a state senator said Wednesday before a committee unanimously approved his proposal to add more layers of regulation to the facilities.
Under the bill, the centers would be required to refer women to other organizations for adoption services rather than facilitate them there. No abortions are performed at the centers, and nor can they refer clients to abortion clinics.
"We're going to demand that the organizations doing the counseling do not make money from abortions or adoption," said Republican Sen. Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, one of the bill's main sponsors.
Supporters of the measure said it will provide a neutral environment for pregnant women to get information. One opponent said the legislation still favors adoption over abortion and objected to the original piece of legislation it alters.
The bill would modify a 2011 law that remains tied up in court. The law required women to seek counseling at a pregnancy help center before getting an abortion. A judge has temporarily blocked the provision.
South Dakota currently has two registered pregnancy help centers, including Care Net in Rapid City and Alpha Center in Sioux Falls.
Novstrup said there would be more if the lawsuit against the bill were dropped. He said the centers have networks of doctors and counselors across the state.
Debbie Pease testified on behalf of the south Dakota Right to Life. She said that the bill strengthens the current abortion laws by removing conflicts of interests.
"If you're making money from it, you're not neutral," Novstrup said, adding that adoption agencies might benefit from extra referrals if they also served as a pregnancy help center, counseling young mothers.
"It's a mirror image of Planned Parenthood," Novstrup said, "I fully support adoption agencies."
Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said because there are only two help centers in large cities that she was concerned the requirement would discourage others from being established. She also asked if women in the state had been coerced into adoption.
A representative from NARAL Pro-Choice opposed the bill, as did Mitch Richter with the Campaign for Healthy Families.
"Abortion is already rare and heavily regulated," said Richter. "We believe this is counter to the purported intent of the law."
The state's House has already approved the bill. It now moves to the Senate floor.