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Planned Parenthood Files Federal Court Lawsuit Challenging Nebraska Abortion Law
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, represented by attorneys at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, today filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska, challenging the constitutionality of a recently enacted Nebraska law misleadingly titled “The Women’s Health Protection Act.”
“The Women’s Health Protection Act,” which passed the Nebraska legislature in April and is scheduled to go into effect on July 15, 2010, purports to ensure that women are “informed” of potential health risks before consenting to an abortion. In fact, the Act requires physicians who may perform an abortion to discuss the entire research literature related to possible health risks related to abortion with their female patients who are seeking abortions, even though much of this information may be outdated, false or misleading. This requirement to inform patients may seem reasonable on the surface, but the reality is that the Act requires a physician to identify all articles that mention any supposed risk factor associated with abortion, without regard to the language in which the articles were published, how long ago they appeared, their relevance to medical practice in Nebraska in the 21st century, and whether their findings have ever been accepted by the medical profession. An initial review of PubMed, one of the databases that must be searched for such articles under the new Nebraska law, found more than 65,000 relevant articles in dozens of different languages dating back to the 1900s.
If implemented, this law would impose requirements on abortion providers that are so massive as to be impossible to meet. And, it requires physicians to provide information simply because it has been published somewhere at sometime in the past, no matter how questionable or out-of-date it may be.
“Our patients rely upon our medical staff to provide honest, medically accurate, unbiased information. We are filing suit today so that we can provide women with information that helps them make truly informed decisions about their health care. Forcing medical and other health professionals to present pseudo-science as fact is something that violates the ancient medical oath to first do no harm and Planned Parenthood’s commitment to trusting women to make the most private medical decisions with counsel from those they trust,” said Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
Under the Act, a physician would be required to discuss flawed studies that purport to find a link between abortion and breast cancer, even though the leading medical organizations — such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists — have all flatly rejected any association between abortion and breast cancer.
In short, the Act compels a doctor to tell his or her patient false and medically inaccurate information, against the physician’s own best medical judgment, betraying the doctor-patient relationship. This law is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate women seeking an abortion with misleading information.
“The Nebraska Act masquerades as a law to inform patients, but it is in reality an unconstitutional abortion ban,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This law sets up impossible criteria requiring doctors to inform patients about tens of thousands of studies, including dubious reports on abortion reaching as far back as the early 1900s. The only way to comply with this law is to cease providing abortions, and that is what makes this law unconstitutional.”
The lawsuit names Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, Kerry Winterer and Dr. Joann Schaefer of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Crystal Higgins and Brenda Bergman-Evans of the Nebraska Boards of Nursing and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses as defendants.
“We intend to take this case as far as necessary to protect the rights and health of the women we serve,” said Jill June.
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has served women and men of all ages in the Heartland since the mid-1930s. Today the agency offers a full range of quality reproductive health care services to residents in Nebraska, 86 Iowa counties and three counties in Illinois through 23 medical centers and Education and Resource Centers located in Des Moines, Lincoln and Omaha.