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Appeals court upholds most of S. Dakota abortion law

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sat, 3 Sep 2011 02:35 GMT
Author: Andrew Stern and Mary Wisniewski
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By Andrew Stern and Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO, Sept. 2, 2011(Reuters) - An appeals court on Friday upheld much of a South Dakota law setting out what a pregnant woman should be told 24 hours before an abortion, including that the procedure would "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a provision in the 2005 law that would require the doctor to tell the woman about an increased risk of suicide after an abortion -- with the court saying the link was unproven and may not exist.

The appeals court overruled a lower court's rulings on South Dakota's law in one respect -- it backed the state's position that pregnant women should be told that they have an existing relationship with the foetus.

The statement assures the woman that she should not feel pressured into having an abortion, the court said. The statement "conveys legal information that is truthful, not misleading, and relevant to the abortion decision," the court said.

In its 17-page ruling, the appeals court upheld the lower court regarding requirements that doctors advise women that the procedure will "terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

Planned Parenthood, which operates the state's only abortion clinic, and the state both appealed after the lower court delivered a mixed ruling on the law.

South Dakota was the first state to have what is sometimes called an informed consent law, according to Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues. The South Dakota law is the most expansive, but it has been imitated in part in other states including North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Indiana, Nash said.

"This law really isn't about health and safety, it's really about forcibly trying to dissuade a woman from getting an abortion any way the state can," Nash said.

South Dakota has been at the centre of some of the most bitter recent fights over abortion, which was legalized in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. In June, a federal judge blocked a South Dakota law that would have required the longest waiting period in the nation at 72 hours and a meeting at an anti-abortion counselling centre before a woman can have the procedure.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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