The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Monday agreed to review the only remaining provision of South Dakota’s informed consent law that the court has not already upheld in a failing lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. The provision requires women to be informed of abortion’s documented risk of suicide.
In September, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit upheld the majority of South Dakota’s law, including a requirement that doctors inform pregnant women that they have “an existing relationship” with an “unborn human being.” Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief last year on behalf of several pro-family and pro-life groups. Harold Cassidy, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, filed the initial appeal to the 8th Circuit on behalf of a group of pregnancy centers that successfully intervened in the suit to protect the interest of women.
“A woman’s right to make a fully informed choice is more important than Planned Parenthood’s bottom line,” said ADF attorney Steve Aden. “If Planned Parenthood truly cared about the well-being of women, it would not try to prevent them from being informed of the well-documented risk of suicide that accompanies abortion.”
“A child’s life is worth more than Planned Parenthood’s bottom line,” Aden said. “Planned Parenthood and other proponents of death work diligently to restrict the information mothers have about abortion and the life within them. It was incredible for the lower court to have determined that the law cannot acknowledge that a ‘pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being’ because some human beings are somehow not ‘persons.’ The 8th Circuit rightly determined that it’s perfectly constitutional to inform women of an undisputed biological fact.”
In 2005, the South Dakota Legislature passed House Bill 1166, which revised state law to require that women be given critical biological, relationship, and medical information before undergoing an abortion. Planned Parenthood, the operator of the state’s only abortion clinic, filed the suit Planned Parenthood v. Rounds to block implementation of the law. After the 8th Circuit lifted a lower court injunction against the law, it was returned to federal district court.
In August 2009, a district court judge ruled that portions of the law requiring doctors to inform women contemplating abortion that they are terminating a human life are constitutional, but she also ruled that other portions requiring doctors to tell women of their legally protected relationship with the preborn child and warning them of the documented risks of depression and suicide from abortion were unconstitutional. The 8th Circuit reversed her decision concerning all provisions except for the “risk of suicide” provision.
Arguing that the “risk of suicide” provision should have been upheld, Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender wrote in dissent that “even the evidence relied upon by Planned Parenthood acknowledges a significant, known statistical correlation between abortion and suicide. This well-documented statistical correlation is sufficient to support the required disclosure that abortion presents an ‘increased risk’ of suicide, as that term is used in the relevant medical literature.” He noted that Planned Parenthood did not challenge the disclosure regarding the documented risks of depression.
ADF filed the brief on behalf of the Family Research Council, CareNet, Heartbeat International, and The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates.
A March 2004 report from the National Institutes of Health revealed that suicide is now the third leading cause of death among America’s young people. In fact, for teen girls and young women, the suicide rate has tripled over the past 25 years.
While suicide among women in the typical abortion age range is rising, suicide rates for Americans in general are dropping across the country.
Dr. David Reardon, director of the Springfield, Illinois-based Elliot Institute, says abortion is partly to blame for the increase.
“Given the fact that more than half of all women having abortions are under the age of 25, and more than 20 percent of women having abortions are teenagers, the increased suicide rate among teens and young women is sadly not a surprise,” Reardon said.
Reardon says unwanted abortions are a reality for teens and young women who are often pressured by boyfriends or parents to have abortions. e says as many as one in six abortions are performed as a result of such coercion and a study the Elliot Institute conducted among women experiencing post-abortion problems reveals that 80 percent said that would not have had an abortion if they had received support from others to have the child.
“Even if their families might give them the support they need to have their babies, many teens often undergo secret abortions without telling their parents,” Reardon said. “Either way, these girls and young women often have no one to turn to when they are in despair over an abortion.”
Another Elliott Institute study also found that women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide.
Reardon’s group examined Medi-Cal records for more than 173,000 low-income California women who had abortions or gave birth in 1989. Linking these records to death certificates, the researchers found that women who had state-funded abortions were 2.6 times more likely to die of suicide compared to women who delivered their babies.
The study also found that women who have abortions have a higher suicide rate than women in general. In fact, giving birth reduces women’s suicide risk, the study showed.
Other studies have found higher rates of depression, mental illness, miscarriages and substance abuse among post-abortive women compared to women who gave birth.