Planned Parenthood Deprives Women of Info on Abortion Risks

Opinion   |   Americans United for Life Legal Team   |   Oct 19, 2012   |   10:21AM   |   Washington, DC

Decades of medical evidence has revealed that abortion carries significant psychological risks, including increased risks of depression, anxiety, and suicide. But informing women of these risks threatens the profit margins of abortion providers: when women are aware of the risks of abortion, they are more likely to choose life. As a result, Planned Parenthood often goes to great lengths to ensure that women are not informed of the psychological risks of abortion.

A prime example of Planned Parenthood’s determination to hide this information from women occurred in a recent case from South Dakota, Planned Parenthood v. Rounds.

In 2005, South Dakota enacted a comprehensive informed consent law requiring, among other things, that a physician seeking to perform an abortion give the woman a written statement providing (in pertinent part):

(e) A description of all known medical risks of the procedure and statistically significant risk factors to which the pregnant woman would be subjected, including:

(i) Depression and related psychological distress;

(ii) Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide…[i]

Following the law’s enactment, Planned Parenthood sued to prevent the new law from going into effect, including the “suicide advisory”.[ii]

The abortion giant attempted at multiple times to introduce flawed and inaccurate information into the record.

Planned Parenthood attempted to introduce as evidence an incomplete version of a 2008 report authored by the American Psychological Association (APA), a flawed report which claimed that there is no link between abortion and suicide.[iii] Attorneys for the State of South Dakota immediately objected, noting that the report, as introduced, was incomplete and missing critical information. The incomplete report omitted multiple tables which were needed to completely document and analyze the data upon which the report’s conclusions were purportedly based.[iv]

In a July 2009 hearing, Planned Parenthood again attempted to rely upon the incomplete APA report, and once again the State objected.[v] Attorneys for the State also offered a comprehensive critique of the APA report through the declaration of an expert witness, Dr. Priscilla Coleman, M.D.[vi] Dr. Coleman thoroughly exposed the flaws in the APA report—including the fact that even a revered pro-abortion researcher signed a protest letter to the APA because the APA’s analysis of the psychological data was so inherently flawed.[vii]

In August 2009, however, without addressing the incompleteness of the APA report, the federal district court sided with Planned Parenthood and ruled that a physician did not have to inform women of the increased risk of suicide following an abortion.[viii] The State, as well as pregnancy care centers that had intervened in the lawsuit in defense of the law, appealed the case to the Eighth Circuit.

On appeal, Americans United for Life (AUL) filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association, Physicians for Life, and the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses.

AUL’s brief highlighted numerous peer-reviewed studies and testimony highlighting the increased risk of suicide following an abortion and supporting the State’s decision to ensure that women are informed of this increased risk. Specifically, AUL discussed Dr. Coleman’s detailed critique of the APA report as well as numerous credible studies supporting a link between abortion and suicide.[ix] Studies have found that the risk of suicide was three to six times greater among women who aborted compared to women who gave birth, one study noting that the rate of deliberate self-harm was 70 percent higher after abortion than childbirth.

AUL’s brief clearly hit a nerve, because on April 9, 2010, the APA attempted to file an amicus curiae brief before the Eighth Circuit attacking the expert testimony of Dr. Coleman.

The court refused to strike AUL’s brief, instead stating it would take Planned Parenthood’s motion to strike under consideration. The Eighth Circuit never ruled on the motion, and AUL’s brief remains a part of the legal record.



Importantly, when the Eighth Circuit initially struck down the suicide advisory, Judge Raymond Gruender used arguments and evidence from AUL’s brief in his dissenting opinion defending the importance of complete and accurate information on abortion’s risk to women’s health. In July 2012, Judge Gruender utilized the peer-reviewed medical evidence from AUL’s brief once again, writing the majority opinion for the entire Eighth Circuit when the court reversed course and upheld the suicide advisory.

Planned Parenthood v. Rounds represents just one of the hundreds of cases Planned Parenthood has filed over the years. Thankfully, in this instance, Planned Parenthood lost and the women of South Dakota won.

[i] S.D. Codified Laws § 34-23A-10.1.

[ii] Planned Parenthood also challenged other portions of the South Dakota informed consent bill—and lost—but those portions of the bill did not pertain to psychological effects of abortion and, therefore, lie outside the scope of this exhibit.

[iii] Opposition of State Defendants to Motion of Applicant for Amicus Curiae Status for leave to file Revised Version of an Incomplete Report Submitted to District Court and an Amicus Brief, filed on Apr. 16, 2009 (8th Cir. 09-3231), at 1 [hereinafter “Opposition of State Defendants to APA motion I”].

[iv] Id. at 3.

[v] Id.

[vi] Id.

[vii] Brief of Amici Curiae Christian Medical &Dental Associations, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Catholic Medical Association, Physicians for Life, and National Association of Pro-Life Nurses in Support of Defendants-Appellants and Reversal of the District of South Dakota, filed on Dec. 21, 2009 and docketed on Jan, 29, 2010 (8th Cir. 09-3231), at 21.

[viii] Id. at 4.

[ix] Id. at 23.

Americans United for Life (AUL) is a nonprofit, public-interest law and policy organization whose vision is a nation in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.