A federal judge has upheld a South Dakota law that requires that abortion clinics inform women of the humanity of the unborn child.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier has ruled that major portions of an informed consent law passed
by the South Dakota Legislature in 2005 are constitutional. The statute required that women be informed that abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Judge Schreier ruled that an abortionist must inform women of this fact before proceeding with abortions.
Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life, hailed the decision. "This is a victory for women and their right to complete and accurate medical information when considering abortion. Fully informed
consent is a bedrock principle of medical care and this principle is especially applicable to abortion.
The federal court's endorsement of the language is of significance to Missouri. Informed consent bills being considered by the Missouri Legislature the last two years, and promoted by the Missouri Family Policy Council, have included similar language.
Judge Schrier struck down other disclosures required under the South Dakota law. One would have required that women be told they "have an existing relationship"
with their unborn child which is protected under the law. The judge ruled that there is no such legal relationship because unborn children are not considered "persons" under the law.
Another provision of the statute would have informed women that a risk factor of abortion is an increased incidence of suicide. The judge declared that information "untruthful and misleading."
However, studies have shown that abortion increases the likelihood that a woman will consider suicide. Research conducted by the Eliot Institute found that
women who had abortions were seven times more likely to consider suicide than women who give birth.
Judge Schrier had previously issued a temporary injunction preventing enforcement of the new informed consent law as a result of a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. But the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last June overruled the judge's decision, dissolved the injunction, and returned the case to her for further review. The Appeals Court determined that Planned Parenthood was unlikely to prevail on the merits in its legal arguments.
Steven Aden, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, called the overall decision a major step
forward in providing legal protection for the unborn.
"A woman's life is worth more than Planned Parenthood's bottom line," he said. "We agree with the decision of the court to allow...women to be informed of the indisputable fact that her baby is a human being."
The South Dakoka decision provides further impetus for the adoption of stronger informed consent provisions in Missouri law. Missouri's current informed
consent statute is ineffective and does not stipulate that specific factual information be shared with women contemplating abortion. Missouri has also failed to follow the lead of other pro-life states in requiring that abortion-minded women be given the opportunity to view an ultrasound of their child.
During the recent legislative session, both the Missouri House and Senate adopted bills to ensure that women receive comprehensive information concerning the nature, risks, and alternatives to abortion. Unfortunately, the House and Senate were unable to come to terms on the language of a final bill before the Legislature adjourned.
The Missouri Family Policy Council will be working with pro-life legislators to pass stronger informed consent legislation in the coming session.