South Dakota Abortion Information Law Gets Federal Appeals Court Hearing

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 12, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Abortion Information Law Gets Federal Appeals Court Hearing Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 12
, 2007

St. Louis, MO ( — The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held a hearing on Wednesday on a South Dakota law to make sure women aren’t denied information from abortion facilities about abortion’s risks and alternatives. The law also requires abortion practitioners to tell women that an abortion will destroy a human life of an unborn child.

The state legislature approved modifications to the informed consent law in 2005 with that instruction and information on the plethora of medical and psychological problems associated with abortion.

But Planned Parenthood, which runs the only abortion business in the state in Sioux Falls, claimed making them tell women the truth about abortion’s problems would infringe on the free speech rights of abortion practitioners and filed suit against the law.

Assistant Attorney General John Guhin defended the law during the hearing.

"The Legislature became convinced women are not getting information about the unborn life within them," he said, according to the Yankton Press and Dakotan newspaper.

"The really sad part is that it might be a husband, boyfriend, even parents" who pressured a woman to have an abortion and the state legislature wanted women to know they have a right to keep the baby.

However, Planned Parenthood lawyer Tim Branson called the information "highly misleading and calculated to mislead."

During the hearing, Chief Judge James Loken challenged the law and its backers and appeared to be inclined to rule against it. He said it would compel abortion practitioners to "preach ideology" and responded to information about abortion’s risks and dangers saying "It’s not science."

He appeared to side with Planned Parenthood’s free speech concerns, according to the newspaper.

Judge Raymond Gruender appeared to side with the state and questioned Planned Parenthood, asking "What part of it is untruthful?"

An 8th Circuit panel let stand a federal injunction against implementing the changes but the full court agreed to rehear the case.

After Planned Parenthood sued to stop the law, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier granted the injunction it sought. She issued the ruling saying she believed Planned Parenthood would prevail in its case and agreed that first amendment rights would be improperly trumped.

The state appealed the ruling, even though part of the case is still at the district court level. The appeals court agreed on a 2-1 ruling and continued the injunction.

Meanwhile, two pregnancy centers joined the state as defendants in the case.

Alpha Center in Sioux Falls and Black Hills Crisis Pregnancy Center in Rapid City say they have a stake in the case because the women impacted by the law are considering an abortion and often come to the centers for more advice and information.

"When the pregnant mothers realize that abortion involves the termination of the life of a human being, they look at the procedure in a different light," Leslee Unruh, Alpha Center president, said previously. "It is not taken lightly and for most of the women this fact is of critical importance and leads them to search for other alternatives."

They also counsel women who have had abortions and say they were not well informed by the abortion centers beforehand.

Similar informed consent laws in other states have reduced the number of abortions and helped women in unplanned pregnancies fund local agencies that will help them.