New Abortion Screening Law Caps 25 Year Effort to Change Abortion Malpractice Laws
by Steven Ertelt
April 14, 2010
Lincoln, NE (LifeNews.com) — When the governor of Nebraska yesterday signed into law a measure that allows women to sue abortion practitioners for mental health problems following an abortion, that represented a culmination of 25 years of efforts to to change abortion malpractice laws to give post-abortive women more legal power.
The legislation was patterned after model legislation called the Protection from Coerced and Unsafe Abortions Act and developed by the Elliot Institute, a post-abortion research and education group based in Springfield, Illinois.
Elliot Institute director, Dr. David Reardon, told LifeNews.com that inspiration for the bill came from a 1985 article written by the pro-life women’s group Feminists for Life of America.
"The article was identifying obstacles and loopholes in the law that made it nearly impossible for women to recover damages for abortion related injuries," Reardon said. "Plus, the short statute of limitations when dealing with medical procedures meant it was likely that women injured by abortion wouldn’t be emotionally ready to come forward until it was too late. The article said this was similar to cases in which women who have been raped may feel too ashamed or afraid to come forward."
Reardon, who has since led numerous academic studies linking abortion to higher rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, said these observations shed new light on something he had been observing in the medical literature on abortion.
"Nearly every study done on abortion and mental health, whether before or since 1985, has found that certain subgroups of women were at higher risk of negative reactions," he said. "Most of these studies have been done by pro-choice researchers, so you cant accuse them of bias. Many of the researchers openly recommend that these risk factors should be used to screen for at-risk patients so they could be given more pre- and post-abortion counseling."
One such study was published in a 1972 issue of Family Planning Perspectives, a publication of Planned Parenthood.
The authors of that study found four risk factors that reliably predicted more post-abortion problems. They suggested that pre-abortion screening should be done using a short psychological profile which could be administered for less than a dollar per patient.
A similar 1977 study identified five risk factors that accurately predicted which women would have subsequent problems adjusting after abortion 72 percent of the time. But in interviewing women who were experiencing problems after abortion, Reardon found that abortion centers were ignoring the research. He couldn’t find even one example of an abortion business doing evidenced-based pre-abortion screening.
Reardon said that this observation, combined with the insights from the Feminists for Life article, made him realize that the loophole in the law protecting abortion practitioners from liability for psychological injuries meant they could simply ignore all of the research on screening and risk factors. In fact, if proper screening led to a reduction of abortion rates among coerced and high risk women, they might actually lose money.
Reardon believes this lack of screening is an act of a medical negligence in and of itself.
"Without screening, it is impossible for a doctor to give informed medical advice," he said. "Performing an abortion on request, regardless of the risks, is contrary to both medical ethics and the law."
He continued, "If a woman walks into a doctors office and says, ‘I have a lump in my breast and need a mastectomy,’ and the doctor says Jump up on the table and well take it right out,’ we dont call that medicine. We call that malpractice. Added to that, the situation with abortion is even worse because many women and girls are having abortions they dont really want, due to lack of resources and support, pressure, coercion, threats, emotional blackmail, disinformation or even force from others."
Reardon said that while Roe v Wade created a right for women to seek an abortion in consultation with a physician, the Supreme Court also wrote that "the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician."
Reardon believes that Roe intended for abortion practitioners to be held liable for inadequate screening and counseling.
"Nebraska has now done what the states should have been doing a long time ago," he said. "They have removed the loopholes in civil law that prevent women from being able to hold abortionists accountable for the negligent screening that predictably leads to so many unwanted, unsafe, and unnecessary abortions."
Related web sites:
Elliot Institute – https://www.afterabortion.org
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