New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Case of Abortion Practitioner’s Deception

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 20, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Jersey Supreme Court Hears Case of Abortion Practitioner’s Deception Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 20
, 2007

Trenton, NJ ( — The New Jersey Supreme Court held a hearing Wednesday on a case in which a woman is suing an abortion practitioner saying she should have been told more information about her unborn child and about the emotional and psychological risks of having an abortion.

In 1996, abortion practitioner Sheldon Turkish told Rose Acuna that she should have an abortion, citing problems with her kidneys.

Acuna, who was in about her seventh week of pregnancy at the time, asked Turkish whether the unborn child was a baby by that point and he told her "Don’t be stupid, it’s just some blood."

She says he didn’t tell her of the risks and dangers associated with the abortion and she wound up in the hospital after the procedure because it was incomplete and parts of her baby’s body were left inside her.

Acuna sued and the case has partly become a conflict about whether abortion practitioners in the state are required to tell women considering an abortion that the procedure kills a human being and whether women should be able to sign a form saying they were told.

Last April, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that a jury should decide whether the woman who was properly given enough information beforehand.

Turkish appealed that decision and the state’s high court agreed to take the case.

The pro-abortion ACLU is siding with Turkish and filed legal papers on his behalf.

"This case isn’t about what happened to her in 1996," ACLU attorney Talcott Camp told the Star Ledger newspaper. "This case is about what happens to every woman seeking an abortion going forward."

But Harold Cassidy, a pro-life attorney representing Acuna, disagrees.

"There is a moral judgment to be made in an abortion and that judgment belongs to the woman," he told the newspaper. "But the woman cannot (make the decision) … if she doesn’t know the facts."

John Zen Jackson, who represents Turkish, argues that he did provide an explanation of the risks to Acuna beforehand.

In lower court cases, Turkish claims he doesn’t remember making the comment and, if asked today, he would say a "7-week pregnancy is not a living human being."

The three judge panel of the state appeals court said a jury should determine if she was properly advised, but also threw out a wrongful death claim Acuna filed.

"The issue presented here is quite narrow," the panel ruled. "What medical information is material and must be disclosed by an obstetrician when advising a patient to terminate a pregnancy?"

Despite allowing the case to move forward, Judge Ariel Rodriques appeared to side with Turkish.

"Obviously, the term ‘baby’ meant something different to Acuna and Turkish," he wrote for the panel. "For her, it meant an embryo or fetus; for the doctor, a human being following birth. Arguably, from Turkish’s perspective, he answered correctly, and discharged his duty to his patient by indicating that there was no ‘baby’ there."

In a deposition, Turkish admitted he routinely tells pregnant mothers that unborn children early on in pregnancy are "nothing but some tissue."

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Amy Chambers ruled in November 2005 that Turkish was not required to tell Acuna, 36, that the unborn child was a human being. Acuna appealed her decision.