The XX Factor

South Dakota Law Requires Women To Hear Anti-Choice Lectures

Are there “secular” crisis pregnancy centers? That was my first question when reading this article in the New York Times about South Dakota’s new law that would require women to wait three days after consulting with a doctor and then go submit herself to a lecture from a Bible thumper on the evils of abortion at a crisis pregnancy center before finally getting her abortion. The Times no doubt wants to play the fair-and-balanced game, so they are careful not to address the religious questions inherent to this law, claiming that the South Dakota law allows any center “both secular and religiously affiliated” to offer “counseling,” as long as it’s the hard sell, with lies and false promises included, to keep your baby. And I’m sure the law allows secular pregnancy centers to qualify, but that’s only because South Dakota legislators know there aren’t any of these mythical secular crisis pregnancy centers.

My first story about crisis pregnancy centers was written five years ago , and I’ve been covering them ever since in various formats, and I’ve never, ever heard of a secular crisis pregnancy center. There are “secular” and even atheist anti-choicers, but they probably constitute 0.0001 percent of all anti-choice activists, and even then, most of them are on their way to a religious conversion . For all intents and purposes, there isn’t a secular anti-choice movement. The anti-choice movement is a subset of the Christian right. That phrase is similar to writing “environmentalist organizations-both pro- and anti-pollution.” The former just doesn’t exist, and the exceptions really do prove the rule. I realize some crisis pregnancy centers do try to minimize the Jesus stuff, but my rule of thumb is to ask if a Jew, Muslim, or atheist would feel preached at by someone, then the secularism is just a front. And that’s absolutely the case with crisis pregnancy centers.

This isn’t a small point, because the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have already announced a lawsuit , and I imagine that the theocratic bent of this law is going to cause the proponents some trouble. But maybe I’m overthinking this. The ACLU blog post doesn’t mention religion at all, but instead focuses on the fact that this violates the “undue burden” standard set by the Supreme Court (or at least it should), and, alarmingly, it’s a massive violation of a woman’s privacy rights. After all, the law now requires women to give their names and identifying information to crisis pregnancy centers, which are not medical facilities. That means that the centers aren’t bound by HIPAA regulations to keep that information private. Which in turn means South Dakota is giving the anti-choice movement a long list of names and identifying information of women who’ve had abortions, and God only knows what they will do with that information once they have it. One thing that’s happened in the past with such information is it was passed on to Bill O’Reilly , though it’s unclear if O’Reilly brought any falafels in the room while he perused this list of women’s private medical information.

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images.