Another win/loss for South Dakota

By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life

South Dakota scored a win Friday when a three-member appeals court panel ruled that abortion-seeking women must be informed they have a legally protected “existing relationship” with their unborn child.

Unfortunately, the same Eighth Circuit panel upheld a lower court decision quashing an informed consent warning to women that abortion elevates suicide risk; the court opined the link was unproven and may not exist.

Ironically, on the very same day came news of a huge “study of studies” in a prestigious psychiatric journal which supports what certain judges bristle at: that abortion causes significant mental harms. (See “Meta-analysis”)

So why can one court deny the existence of what an international journal exposes? Because not one official U.S. study on abortion harms has ever been conducted.  Somehow, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control have managed to ignore studying the most common elective surgery done on women– abortion.

Although Kansas is in a different appellate division (the tenth) from South Dakota, the latter’s experience with pro-abortion rulings from U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier and Eighth Circuit court of appeals Judge, Diana Murphy are illustrative.

In 2002, Schreier ruled against a 1973 South Dakota law requiring hospitalization for abortions in the second & third trimester because determining gestational age was an ‘impermissible burden’ on women. The Eighth Circuit appellate court overturned her in 2004.

In 2005, after special extensive hearings were held about the impact of abortion, the South Dakota legislature passed a bill expanding abortion informed consent. The law did not get the approval of Judge Schreier, and Judge Murphy issued the injunction.

However over a period of time, the 8th circuit appellate court has upheld that women must be informed:

  • of  “all known medical risks” of abortion…including depression and related psychological distress;
  • that “abortion terminates the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being“ (language adopted this year in Kansas’ informed consent materials);  and
  • that mothers have a relationship with their unborn that is protected under state law and the U.S. Constitution. (The court said this information works against coercion).

In his dissent against overturning the warning about an increased suicide risk, Judge Raymond Gruender of the 8th Circuit pointed out the evidence was strong for the suicide risk; if only because it logically follows that suicide is based in depression, which both sides accepted as a risk of abortion.

More importantly, Judge Gruender discussed the strong evidence presented by the state as opposed to that presented by Planned Parenthood which rested on a deeply flawed 2008 American Psychological Association Task Force study.

And–-no surprise–-South Dakota’s newly-passed pro-life law has wound up in Judge Schreier’s court and is likely headed for more years of litigation.

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