(CN) – Doctors in South Dakota must tell women who want abortions that the procedure increases the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, a majority of the full 8th Circuit ruled.
The development stems from 2005 bill that amended the state requirements for obtaining informed consent to an abortion.
It required physicians to inform patients that an abortion severs a woman’s 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 defined 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.
Though a federal judge preliminarily enjoined the law, and a divided panel of the 8th Circuit affirmed, the St. Louis, Mo.-based court vacated the injunction en banc.
As the law went into effect, the trial court looked at the merits of Planned Parenthood’s challenge.
U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier upheld the requirement that doctors discuss potential health risks that the patient could develop after the procedure; the requirement doctors inform patients “that the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being;” and the requirement that those disclosures occur except where there is a medical emergency.
She narrowed the requirement to disclose “all known medical risks of the procedure” as a requirement to disclose “statistically significant risk factors.”
Schreier took issue, however, with disclosures regarding the protected relationship between the patient and the unborn child and the suicide advisory.
In September 2011, the 8th Circuit affirmed except as to the disclosure regarding the protected relationship between the patient and the unborn child
After later convening the full court to look only at the suicide-risk disclosure, a seven-judge majority reversed Tuesday
“The suicide advisory is non-misleading and relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion,” Judge Raymont Gruender wrote for the court.
“The statue does not require the physician to disclose that a casual link between abortion and suicide has been proved,” he added. “The disclosure is truthful, as evidenced by a multitude of studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals that found the increased risk of suicide for women who had received abortions compared to women who gave birth, miscarried, or never became pregnant.”
Two judges authored separate paragraphs about their decision to concur.
Judge Diane Murphy wrote a dissent on behalf of herself and three colleagues.
“The most reliable evidence in the record shows that abortion does not have a causal relationship to the risk of suicide and that South Dakota’s mandated advisory is not truthful, but actually misleading,” she wrote.
“The statute before the court requires doctors to tell a pregnant woman that a greater likelihood of suicide and suicide ideation is a ‘known medical risk’ to which she ‘would be subjected’ by having an abortion,” Murphy added. “The record clearly demonstrates, however, that suicide is not a known medical risk of abortion and that suicide is caused instead by factors preexisting an abortion such as a history of mental illness, domestic violence, and young age at the time of pregnancy.”