S.D. Begins Enforcing Informed-Consent Law

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – South Dakota’s informed-consent bill went into effect Friday, requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

     On June 27, the 8th Circuit voted 5-4 to lift a preliminary injunction that had temporarily prevented the state from enforcing House Bill 1166, passed by voters in 2005.
     The bill requires physicians to inform patients that an abortion severs her right to the existing relationship with her unborn child, and that having an abortion increases her risk of developing psychological and medical problems, including depression, suicide, infection, infertility and death.
     The law defines a “human being” to include “the unborn human being during the entire embryonic and fetal ages from fertilization to full gestation.”
     Doctors are also required to disclose the probable gestational age of the unborn child, medical assistance benefits, support liability of the father, and the availability of printed resources about fetal development and adoption services.
     Planned Parenthood, the state’s only abortion clinic, challenged the disclosure requirement as a violation of doctors’ First Amendment protection against compelled speech.
     For the argument to hold up in court, Judge Gruender said, Planned Parenthood had to prove that the information in the consent forms is false or misleading.
     “Because Planned Parenthood has failed to demonstrate the requisite likelihood of success on its claim that the disclosure required by (House Bill 1166) is untruthful or misleading,” Gruender wrote, “it has not demonstrated that there is an ideological message from which physicians need to disassociate themselves.”
     As for the heavily contested notion that abortion kills a “whole, separate, unique, living human being,” the court said its role was “to examine the disclosure actually mandated, not one phrase in isolation.”
     Judges Murphy, Wollman, Bye and Melloy dissented.
     Murphy said South Dakota’s law differs from other informed-consent laws that pass constitutional muster, because it deviates from “medically relevant and factually accurate information designed to assist a woman’s free choice” and “expresses ideological beliefs aimed at making it more difficult for women to choose abortions.”
     The lifted injunction allowed the law to go into effect July 19.
     “The law is one more terrible, terrible barrier, Sarah Stoesz, president of the regional Planned Parenthood office told the Washington Post.
     Mailee Smith, staff counsel at Americans United for Life, lauded the bill as “a good law, because it does provide a woman with the broadest spectrum of information.”
     About 700 abortions are performed in South Dakota each year.

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