8th Circuit To Decide Scope Of Informed Consent In South Dakota Abortion Case

Last week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis heard arguments in the case filed by Planned Parenthood challenging the only remaining provision of South Dakota’s informed consent law that have not already been upheld. It represents another phase in a decades long battle over abortion access in the state and could have implications well beyond the borders of South Dakota.

Arguments in the case focused on the provision that requires women to be “informed” of the risk of suicide as a result of abortion. In 2009 a district court ruled unconstitutional portions of the South Dakota law that required doctors to inform women of depression and suicide risks. The Eighth Circuit, in a previous ruling, overturned the district court with exception to the suicide warning requirement of the informed consent law. That remaining portion is what argued last week.

Planned Parenthood argues that the date linking abortion to suicide and suicide ideation is flawed, so requiring doctors to make such statements to patients would be misrepresenting the truth. The studies and data the law wants doctors to convey infers outcomes related to depression and suicide and are unproved.

Since informed consent is, at its core, about educating patients about the risks they will run into if they have a given procedure, the information must be accurate and relevant to be of any value to the patient. The point made by Planned Parenthood is that suicide and suicide ideation risks run the same whether or not a woman chooses to have an abortion, so forcing doctors to disclose this risk bears no relevance to her decision. If informed consent means anything at all, it means arming patients with information that helps makes their decision and informed one and not a reactionary one.

Not surprisingly, anti-abortion advocates see it differently. They argue the state has the right to compel that certain information be dictated to patients as part of informed consent. With the same breath they also argue that they are not trying to tell doctors what to recommend to patients, but that states should have a say in that process.

At least in South Dakota they are candid about the fact that anti-abortion activists want to replace medical judgment with moral and religious judgment.

A decision in the case is not expected until later in the year. In the meantime, the battle for full and equal access to health care services for women marches on.

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Photo from steak pinball via flickr.


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Lynn Squance
Lynn S6 years ago

My body!
My decision!
Some, mostly Republican/Teabaggers, you know the ones that want small unobtrusive government, are pushing for no contraception, no abortions, and oh, if you happen to miscarry consider yourself charged with at least manslaughter. Horse puckey!
These same people would say use the rhythm method. I say to men, keep it in your pocket! This is just one more way that men soothe their insecurities, controlling women. Well I say
My body!
My decision!

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose6 years ago

Thanks for the Article. Did many of my 'growing up' years in S.D. S.D. is another state run by males with the egos and controlling desires that go with, in charge of other peoples lives. Keeping women, children and Native Americans, for example, under tight controls is imperative for those in power. Abortion, conception and choice of suicide,(that I believe should be constitutional and private rights same as religion) are but a few ways of maintaining control the PTB's consider essential. South Dakota itself, is incredibly beautiful, many (not all) of those who run the laws have ugly minds and goals. The same goes for this country.

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush6 years ago

To Mark L.: In fact, any taxes collected, due to the legalization of prostitution would be more than is collected, as we speak.
As for the pimps, their control over women would become obsolete. Their so-called 'protection' would no longer be needed.
I agree, that this is not a profession, I would wish on anyone, but, then again, it is about freedom and free choice.

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush6 years ago

Abortion rights are about FREEDOM.
Men, who are against free choice, want to control women, period.
Women, who are against free choice, are most obviously controlled by men themselves, and want to control other women. (Misery loves company!)

There are dominated by the religious right, whose god is FEAR and HATRED.
They are afraid of almost everything, especially the imaginated 'devil'.
They fear god's rath, instead of having learned that god is supposed to be about love and forgiveness.
If you ask them what is wrong with the world, they will inevitably tell you about non-existent fears. They don't care about the homeless, the hungry, the slave labor, or any other social disgusting problem, our country or the world faces.
If they are not effected directly, it doesn't count!

Natasha Lopez
Natasha L6 years ago


Kathy M.
Kathy M6 years ago

I'm 55 I was alive when women did not have the right to choose.When they had to go to the darkside and be shamed for their situation. I never want to see my daughters or nieces or their friends dont have that right.The choice should be up to the woman.A woman should not be bullied into having a baby they don;t want or can not care for ,for any reason. I do not want any women to die from botched abortions.

Mark S.
Mark S6 years ago

George, I agree. However, if prostitution was legal, the government would have a hard time collecting taxes on it. I believe that's why a lot of things are illegal. Also, it may cause an explosion of abuse to women by their pimps. But, women have a right to do as they please with their own bodies, IMO.

Meaghan Wolfe
Meaghan Wolfe6 years ago

I vote on here often to help women get rights in other countries and I'm a huge advocate of helping women within my communitee understand that they do not have to be pushed around or bullied. Like I'm going to let these ignoramouses tell me what I can and cannot do to my own body.