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Disturbing News out of South Dakota

July 26, 2012

In South Dakota this week, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state can require doctors to warn women that they face an increased risk of suicide if they have an abortion. It’s a deeply disturbing conclusion, especially since there is no proven correlation between abortion and suicide-risk.

As Jodi Jacobson at RHRealityCheck points out, this is nothing short of “legally-mandated lying.”

Creating and disseminating false “medical findings” on everything from abortion and depression and suicide, to abortion and breast cancer, to abortion and “fetal pain” are key to the strategy of the anti-choice movement. Under the guise of “informed consent,” they are forcing doctors to use fake or manipulated data to misinform women who simply do not want to or can not continue a pregnancy. Every one of the claims listed above and others have been debunked by medical professionals and bodies ranging from the World Health Organization to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute to the American Pediatric Association. But never mind that: The court considered and gave weight to junk science to reach a decision that disconnects real evidence from law and real medicine from women’s lives.

The studies used in this case presented a correlation between abortion and suicide, but it doesn’t seem that the studies took into account other pre-existing factors like poverty, domestic violence, mental health issues, or age at the time of pregnancy. Certain factors probably predispose women to have both unwanted pregnancies and suicidal tendencies. But then again, the court ruled that conclusive proof of causation was not required anyway.

And if it wasn’t bad enough, don’t forget: South Dakota already requires parental notification, visiting a counseling center before an abortion, and the longest mandated waiting period in the nation (72 hours).

People seeking abortions should have accurate information about all of their options.  Information should support a woman, help her make a decision for herself, and enable her to take care of health and well-being.  Information shouldn’t have the intent of coercing, shaming, or judging a woman—or use fear tactics to make long-debunked correlations looks like hard science.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Luke permalink
    July 26, 2012 10:15 pm

    I certainly appreciate the point of your post and definitely believe that abortion should be available to anyone who wants one, but I worry that you’ve overlooked how an abortion can be a deeply traumatic experience. As a man, I clearly don’t have experience with such trauma, but I will never forget reading a poem that my mother had written in college and from that, learning that she had had an abortion after a date rape. She had died by the time I read the poem, but it cemented my belief in abortion rights since the poem conveyed a sense of deep anxiety, shame and outright depression in choosing an abortion over raising a child on a waitresses salary (and likely never meeting my father, having a less fulfilling life, etc, etc.).

    • samanthalifson permalink*
      July 27, 2012 4:45 pm

      Hi Luke, thanks for your comment!

      I think your point is really important; of course ending a pregnancy is complex and can be a negative experience for some people. A woman should have accurate information about all of her options, and the information given to women should support them and enable them to take care of their own health and well-being. Legally requiring doctors to tell patients that abortion leads to suicide – especially when the science just doesn’t prove that – is anything but. Also, this: Exhale is a really good resource that deals with overall wellness post-abortion – no matter how a woman is feeling.

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