Illinois

The decision to have an abortion is typically not an easy one and it is never one a woman makes lightly. Some women may, after the procedure, feel regret and wonder if it was in fact the best decision for themselves. Trying to blame the doctor is not going to resolve those feelings and doctors should certainly not be held responsible for it monetarily. A women’s regret should also not be used by anti-choice politicians to try and pass laws that violate the rights of women and doctors. A new example of the anti-choice community re-using this same argument to pass unconstitutional policy recently took place in Illinois.

A woman had an abortion back in 2004; in 2006 she decided to sue Planned Parenthood for malpractice based on informed consent laws. The woman, listed as Mary Doe, states that she asked the counselor at Planned Parenthood if the abortion would “kill a human being in the biological sense” and the counselor said no. She did sign a consent form saying the she understood she was there for an abortion and that after the abortion she would no longer be pregnant. In other words, she realized that she was ending her pregnancy. According to the lawsuit what she didn’t understand was that the abortion was killing a “human being in the biological sense,” and that if Planned Parenthood hadn’t “misinformed” her she would not have gone through with the abortion.

The appellate court in the state of Illinois found no support for her claim stating that “no court, regardless of where it sits, has found common law duty requiring doctors to tell their pregnant patients that aborting an embryo, or fetus, is the killing of an existing human being.” This is because there is no common definition of when an embryo/fetus becomes a human. There are numerous scientific, moral, and religious concepts competing to define when life begins and Planned Parenthood gave her the answer according to what they believe. Requiring a doctor to state that a human life exists and is being ended during an abortion is tantamount to creating certain beliefs be given precedence over others and that is a step I don’t think the court system is willing to take.

The same argument, with almost verbatim wording, made its way through the New Jersey court system back in 2007. That case was represented by the same lawyer who represented Mary Doe, Harold Cassidy. The case in New Jersey was also dismissed, for the same reason; you cannot require a doctor to tell their patient something that cannot be proven to be true and which the doctor may not personally believe. It is a violation of the doctors First Amendment Right. Ms. Doe’s lawyers have indicated they intend to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Cassidy is also responsible for a piece of legislation in South Dakota that was recently upheld in the Court System which requires a doctor to inform their patients that there is an “existing relationship with the unborn.” A similar concept but apparently different enough that the courts felt it was ok to require it. I can understand the intent behind the law; they want to dissuade women from having an abortion. I disagree with their premise, but I can understand where they are coming from. Now it seems that violating a woman’s right to determine what goes on in her own body isn’t enough, now anti-choicer’s want to force doctors to espouse rhetoric they don’t believe. It is a shameful violation of the First Amendment; although the appellate court in South Dakota doesn’t seem to see that, it seems the courts in other states do. Let’s hope the trend set by Illinois and New Jersey continues to be the precedence followed.

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