Appeals court upholds South Dakota “existing relationship” abortion law

We’ve got some serious legal battles around abortion rights to look forward to (or dread profusely) in the coming years.

The latest is from South Dakota, a recent abortion battleground state (despite only having one clinic in the entire state). Via The Atlantic Wire:

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court Friday, and found constitutional a South Dakota law requiring that a pregnant woman be told she has an “existing relationship” with her fetus before going through with an abortion.

The exact wording of the law was:

The state law mandates that an abortion provider tell a woman seeking an abortion that she “has has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota.”

Wowza. That is some serious personhood baiting if I ever saw it.

What still gets to me, after all these years and oh-so-many laws, is the idea that legislators can mandate what a medical provider must do or say before a medical procedure. Shocking that this is the only medical procedure that legislators take such a deep interest in.

The last judge to review this law had deemed it unconstitutional:

Schreier found that wording misleading, the Associated Press reported, “because she said a relationship, in the eyes of the law, can only exist between people and the US Supreme Court has ruled that the unborn are not legally considered people.”

This most recent ruling did strike down the provision of the law requiring doctors to tell women that they are more likely to commit suicide after an abortion (no evidence). What is interesting is that Planned Parenthood is actually claiming this ruling is a good thing for abortion advocates. I’m not sure I understand this argument. More on their position here.

This is only a hint at the legal battles to come as these state laws creep through the court system, where at least a few of them will eventually land in front of the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: RH Reality Check has more about what’s good about this ruling.

Join the Conversation

  • Joshua Stein

    What’s bizarre is how far these laws often trespass under the guise of being about ‘informed consent.’ I recognize that ‘informed consent’ (insofar as it is possible for those without medical training to understand the procedures we’re undergoing) is an important part of contemporary medical ethics, but the fact that is used to justify lecturing to women during a part of their lives where they need support and (oft forgotten) professionalism from the medical practitioners they’re dealing with is totally unforgivable.

    • Jade

      I have recently moved to South Dakota, with the understanding it is a battle ground state with regard to comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights. When I read this article, I was hoping for more information on how I can volunteer and get involved in the fight, on the ground, here in South Dakota. Help?