A little more on recent developments in abortion law following the wake of last month’s Gonzales vs Carhart ruling…
As stated yesterday, the impact of Carhart will take some years to fully resolve itself, but general outlines may be discerned by tracing early efforts by some states to enact the mandate to open “dialogue” between medical professionals and women seeking abortions.
For example, South Carolina is currently been considering requirements that a pregnant woman view fetal ultrasounds before deciding to abort. Missouri has recently taken up the idea as well.
Nevada and Wisconsin have already mandated pre-abortion counseling about the possible adverse psychological effects of abortions, but with even more pointed language. Pre-abortion counseling is not unusual in the United States, with some 28 states presently requiring that abortion decisions be made with “informed consent” on the part of the pregnant woman. What distinguishes Nevada and Wisconsin now is the pointedly anti-abortion rhetoric that will be employed, essentially in an effort to counteract the decision to abort. However, no state presently wants to counsel as aggressively as South Dakota.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently weighing South Dakota’s strict 2005 informed-consent law, which requires that South Dakota women be told, “The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” and that the woman “has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution.”
So far, judges have ruled that the South Dakota law violates physicians’ free-speech rights, because it compels them to mouth the state’s ideological message. Judges also have determined that it places an “undue burden” – the key phrase in all these cases – on a woman’s right to an abortion. The final ruling of this case will certainly set a precedent for informed-consent regulations across the country.
Other requirements being considered by states are waiting periods of up to 48 hours before the abortion may be conducted, and requiring a pregnant woman to listen to her fetus’ heartbeat before the abortion is performed.
A friend of mine, when I asked her what she thought about pregnant women seeking abortions being required to view ultrasounds and listen to the heartbeats of their fetuses reacted with unmitigated horror: “It is not the state’s place to force images like that on people, no matter what the context!” she said with feeling, attracting the attention of several people around us.
I have held women in my arms while they wept uncontrollably for the lives of unborn children they aborted, and I cannot help feeling that something which causes so much psychological pain and suffering is inherently wrong. But when it comes to the place of the Law in regard to these proceedings, I must admit that my feelings are more in line with my friend’s.
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