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June 27, 2008

Appeals Court Allows Government Interference in Doctor-Patient Relationship

Court decision casts shadow over abortion ban on the November ballot

Sioux Falls, SD - Casey Murschel, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota, called today's decision by the Eighth Circuit Court in St. Louis regarding an anti-choice law a blow to patient privacy. A lower court's decision had kept the law, which interferes in the doctor-patient relationship, from taking effect. Today's decision from the appeals court lifts that hold.

"We all agree that a woman considering abortion, like any patient, should receive from her doctor full and unbiased information about a range of medical options, but the law in question puts politicians into the examining room," said Murschel, who as a state legislator voted against this measure.

Murschel also said South Dakotans leery of the state spending tax dollars on court cases should pay heed to how the proposed abortion ban on November's ballot could further entangle the state in costly litigation and take time away from issues related to health care and economic development.

"Today's action by the appeals court illustrates how South Dakota could become the epicenter of legal challenges around abortion," Murschel said. "The same people who supported this interference in the doctor-patient relationship now are pushing for an abortion ban that, if passed, could further entangle our state in costly litigation. It is time for all South Dakotans—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—to end these politically motivated attacks on our privacy. One of the best ways to send that message is by voting against the abortion ban in November."

Background on the South Dakota biased counseling provision:
In 2005, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction preventing amendments to South Dakota's biased counseling provision from going into effect. The lower court found that the amended version of the statute infringes on the First Amendment rights of providers as it requires them to promote the state's ideology on an "unsettled medical, philosophical, theological, and scientific issue, that is, whether a fetus is a human being." The statute would require providers to tell the woman that abortion ends "the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," that she has a relationship with the "unborn human being" and this relationship is protected under law, and that the relationship and the constitutional rights she enjoys with regards to that relationship will end when she has an abortion. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the lower court decision. However, a request for rehearing by the full court was granted, and today the full panel of the Eighth Circuit overturned the decisions of the three-judge panel and the trial court and allowed the challenged law to go into effect.

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