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Federal appeals court partially upholds South Dakota abortion consent law

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] on Friday partially upheld [opinion, PDF] a South Dakota law which expanded the requirements for informed consent for abortion [HB 1166 materials]. The court upheld the provision that requires doctors to tell patients prior to an abortion "that [she] has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota" and that "by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated." Planned Parenthood Federation of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota [advocacy website], which brought the suit, argued that the relationship advisories "unconstitutionally compel ideological speech by doctors" and are an attempt to inform women that abortion is morally wrong. The court stated the provision just informs the woman that she cannot be forced to have an abortion and thus does not represent an undue burden on her decision to have an abortion. However, the court upheld the lower court decision [JURIST report] to strike down the provision that required doctors to inform women seeking an abortion that their risk of suicide would go up as a result of the abortion. The court stated that the abortion advisory posed an undue burden on women because there was much debate in the medical community about the matter and a significant amount of evidence to the contrary.

The informed consent law was originally passed [JURIST report] in 2005 but has faced years of court challenges and appeals. South Dakota passed another controversial abortion law [JURIST report] in March which requires women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. In July the Planned Parenthood Federation of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota [advocacy website] succeeded in obtaining a preliminary injunction against the law [JURIST report].

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