Court upholds S. Dakota rule based on abortion’s suicide risk

Sioux Falls, S.D., Jul 26, 2012 / 04:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal appeals court has upheld a South Dakota informed consent rule requiring that abortion doctors warn women seeking abortions about the increased risks of suicide.

Leslee J. Unruh, President of the pro-life counseling group Alpha Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., backed the law and praised the July 24 ruling.

She said the decision is a victory for “all women who have ever been deceived into thinking that aborting their unborn children was the ‘only easy way out.’”

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the disputed portion of the 2005 informed consent law by a vote of 7-4. The court said the law is not an “undue burden on abortion rights” or a violation of doctors’ free speech rights.

In September, a three-judge panel had upheld a lower court’s decision that overturned the suicide risk notification requirement. Abortion provider Planned Parenthood had filed suit challenging the rule.

Women who have undergone abortions have higher rates of suicide than women who give birth. A possible abortion-suicide connection was one focus of the legal arguments.

Opponents of the rule contended that the studies failed to account for factors like mental health issues, domestic violence, and young age at the time of pregnancy, the Associated Press reports.

Attorneys for South Dakota, who defended the requirement, said that peer-reviewed studies show a “statistically significant correlation between abortion and suicide.”

The law requires any doctor who performs an abortion to obtain informed consent from a woman seeking an abortion, except in cases of medical emergency. It also requires the woman to be informed that the abortion will end the life of “a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

Unruh explained her support for the informed consent requirements.

She said a pregnant woman who is considering an abortion that will “deprive her of the joy and fulfillment of a lifelong relationship with her child” must make her decision in a way that is “totally voluntary and well-informed.”

“The victory today is a step towards achieving that goal for the women of South Dakota,” Unruh said.

Legal challenges still remain for a 2011 South Dakota law that requires a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion and requires women seeking an abortion to undergo counseling at a pregnancy center that discourages abortion.

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