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S. Dakota Readies Again for Abortion Fight

There is one abortion clinic in South Dakota, located in Sioux Falls, hours by car from much of the state. Because no South Dakota doctor is willing to perform elective abortions, Planned Parenthood flies in doctors once a week from Minneapolis. Protesters often picket.

One of those doctors is Carol Ball, who makes the trip once a month.

"What we see is that women undergo a great deal of hardship to get here. Every time we have a clinic, we see women who have come five or six hours," said Ball, who cited the case of a woman in western South Dakota last year who tried to perform an abortion on herself. The implement the woman used broke off.

Ball described "another layer of access problems" stemming from opposition to abortion, especially in small towns. Patients have told her of their fear of discussing crisis pregnancies, sometimes with their own doctors who oppose abortion, for fear their care will suffer.

"That is a fear based in reality," Ball said. "The fact is, they don't think they can talk about it with anybody, or with very few people."

Mary Jones, a pro-choice therapist who works with women and families, said, "It's a lot more difficult than it was 10 or 15 years ago." A teenage client, whom she described as a "straight-A type of student," recently had an abortion and heard the script mandated by the legislature. It must be delivered no earlier than two hours before the procedure.

"She was incensed, was the word she used," Jones said. "She told me that she felt subhuman, like she couldn't possibly understand what was happening to her."

However, the restrictions are seen as safeguards and as tactical steps designed to make abortion extremely rare.

"We are insulted when we hear the Planned Parenthood folks say . . . that women in the middle of the state have nowhere to turn, because it's not true," said the Rev. Steve Hickey, who opposes abortion rights. "There are churches full of people all around the state who will help."

Hickey is a leading organizer of the Lampstand Project, which is rallying churches to provide a haven for women in crisis pregnancies and to persuade them not to have abortions.

In an open letter on Sept. 4, Lampstand ministers wrote that "abortion is unnecessary in part because the church is a significant part of God's provision to women and children in crisis." Hickey says he believes South Dakota has been chosen by God to challenge Roe v. Wade.

At a time when the United States allows "the shedding of innocent blood," Hickey said in an interview in his office at Church at the Gate, "He is giving the nation a window of opportunity to address this. He's picked the state that can pull it off."

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