District 33 Senator Phil Jensen of Hisega is in the process of writing a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of gestation. He says it's simple: fetuses can feel pain after that point, making abortions inhumane.
Pro-choice supporters say Jensen's bill is unconstitutional and poorly researched.
According to Jensen, the bill, dubbed the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," is based on medical research that shows a fetus can feel and respond to pain after 20 weeks of development. Jensen says other conservatives he's talked to are on board. "The fetus has developed pain receptors and can feel pain and so most feeling thinking human beings, once they realize that, it doesn't make much sense that we would allow that sort of procedure to occur," Jensen said.
Senator Jensen's bill does allow for abortions after 20 weeks if the mother's health is at stake.
Doctor Buehner, an Obstetrician in Rapid City, says the United States Constitution protects a woman's right to privacy regarding abortions through the 24th week of pregnancy, making the bill unconstitutional. In addition, Buehner calls the "pain argument" weak. "It's mostly speculative and not based on strong science and most experts would agree on that, Buehner said.
While there is medical research that supports the premise that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks, other research shows the brain is not developed enough until the 28th week of pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 1.5 percent of abortions happen during or after week 20. Eighty-eight percent of abortions happen in the first 12 weeks.
Physicians in Arkansas, Minnesota, and Georgia are required to tell women that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain during the procedure unless they are sedated. Woman in these states are still allowed to proceed with the abortion if they so choose.