Governor Dennis Daugaard will decide this week whether he will veto House Bill 1217 or whether he will nullify women's reproductive privacy in South Dakota. But if that loss of privacy won't stop HB 1217, perhaps the loss of privacy faced by crisis pregnancy centers will.

Crisis pregnancy centers, the religious organizations HB 1217 would empower to argue every South Dakota woman out of an abortion, seem to be keenly concerned about protecting their privacy. This list of South Dakota CPCs from the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese shows addresses and phone numbers but gives no names. Leslee Unruh isn't afraid to list her Alpha Center staff members online, but that list doesn't include the names of the volunteer "client advocates" who might provide state-mandated "counseling" under HB 1217.

No other South Dakota CPC gives as much identifying information about its staff as the Alpha Center. The Teddy Bear Den lists its board of directors and sponsors, but doesn't indicate who does pregnancy counseling. New Haven Ministries south of Sioux Falls offers a "Staff" webpage, but it offers only the following information:

Our staff is comprised of devoted Christians that believe it is God's leading for them to be ministering to people in need of some counseling. Each of our staff members have been trained in how to minister to folks biblically.

(Hmm... if their only training is biblical, I guess they won't qualify to give the secular counseling required by HB 1217.)

Planning Life, Mike Pulizzi's CPC in Sioux Falls, doesn't identify its staff or volunteers, but it does point out that all it takes to qualify as a crisis pregnancy counselor are three training sessions. Birthright has lots of sites around South Dakota, but no local staff information. Neither does the Bella Pregnancy Resource Center in Spearfish. (The Bella PRC lists the potential risks of abortion, including a link to bad science, but none of the risks of pregnancy. I thought we were trying to fully inform women....)

If most of these CPCs won't even list the names of their counselors, will they want to surrender those names to the state or to doctors and abortion providers? Not Roxanne Johnson, Bella exec:

Johnson said she would also "have a difficult time providing an abortion clinic with the name of a volunteer or staff member who assisted an abortion-minded woman at our facility, simply because I would not want that person to become the target of someone else's political agenda. Bella is not a political organization, and I don't want to see us drawn into a political war because it would thwart our mission of helping women in crisis" [Mary Garrigan, "Pregnancy Centers Wait out Daugaard's Decision," Rapid City Journal, 2011.03.17].

Birthright Rapid City director Jean Carlson tells Garrigan her organization's own strict confidentiality rules may prevent them from sharing any pregnancy counseling information with third parties.

CPCs concerned about privacy will serve their volunteers and their clients well by steering clear of this poorly written bill. HB 1217 has enough gaps and questions and ill-considered legal questions that, even if Governor Daugaard enacts it, even if it withstands judicial scrutiny, the Legislature will have to revisit it and impose all sorts of additional regulations to clarify the requirements and cover the state's backside. When HB 1217 makes CPC volunteers the agents of the state, the state has an obligation to certify those volunteers and hold them accountable for carrying out the law. And we the public have a right to now who's working to carry out our laws.

That means you can expect the CPC registry to become a counselor registry. You want to volunteer to carry out the state's coercive anti-abortion counseling? Your name will end up on a database in Pierre. And databases in Pierre generally end up in the press.

Even if we avoid such a counselor database or certification program, what happens when women (or men) start suing doctors over "coerced" abortions under HB 1217? Expect subpoenas to force CPC volunteers to testify publicly about their activities at the CPC and their qualifications to counsel women and make psychiatric judgments.

Now sure, there are lots of unknowns in that process... but that's part of the problem. CPC volunteers, you need to think ahead: how do you feel about your privacy? If you're like Leslee Unruh and don't mind being a public figure, good for you. Participating in HB 1217's mandated counseling may make you one.

But if you'd prefer that your volunteer work to counsel pregnant women not be a matter of public record, you might want to call Governor Daugaard and tell him to veto HB 1217.

Bonus CPC Complications: Robin Marty notes Roxanne Johnson's hesitance to entangle her organization with HB 1217 for fear of facilitating any abortion. Yvonne Hawkins, who has experience counseling pregnant women, expresses concerns that HB 1217 violates the principles of good counseling by coercing women to hear certain messages.