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South Dakota governor signs extended abortion wait period law

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Governor Dennis Daugaard (R-SD) - Flickr photo by NRCS SD
Governor Dennis Daugaard (R-SD) - Flickr photo by NRCS SD

(Reuters) - South Dakota Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard on Friday signed into law a measure that excludes weekends and holidays from the state's 72-hour waiting period for abortions, potentially making the wait the longest in the nation.

The Republican-controlled state Senate last week approved the measure, passed earlier in February by the Republican-controlled state House, sending it to Daugaard.

The South Dakota bill signing was the latest legislative or court action on abortion laws this week.

Arkansas lawmakers earlier this week voted to ban most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy effective later in 2013 if the law survives a planned court challenge. In February, they imposed an immediate ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In Idaho, a federal judge on Wednesday struck down the state's ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, ruling that the measure was unconstitutional.

South Dakota has been at the center of some of the most bitter recent fights over abortion, which was legalized in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

Daugaard had supported the concept of a longer waiting period, which addresses a practical consideration in that counseling is available during business hours, a spokesman said.

The law potentially extends a waiting period to six days if a woman seeks abortion services just before a three-day weekend. Utah also has a 72-hour waiting period.

"We are very disappointed that the state has chosen to further burden women with medically unnecessary waiting restrictions on abortion," said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

Planned Parenthood has dropped a legal challenge to South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period but continues to contest the state law requiring women to attend a counseling session at an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center.

The 72-hour waiting period in South Dakota has been on hold pending that challenge and will begin to be enforced within the next several weeks, the organization said.

(Reporting by David Bailey)

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