Court Rules In Favor Of Calling Fetuses "Living Human Beings"

Back in 2005, South Dakota passed an abortion law that required doctors to give patients wanting to terminate pregnancies a written statement that said the following: "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," and that they have "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that is constitutionally protected. Slate's Emily Bazelon reports, "In addition, doctors are ordered to describe 'all known medical risks of the procedure and statistically significant risk factors,' including 'depression and related psychological distress" and "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.'" The whole designation of the fetus as a "living human being" seems unconstitutional in light of Roe vs. Wade, doesn't it? But apparently the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't think so, because just last week, it ruled that the law will soon go into effect after a three-year-long injunction. So how does South Dakota get around those pesky constitutional edicts that say that a fetus is not a person in the legal sense of the word? Easy! By employing circular logic!

According to Bazelon:

[The 8th Circuit Court] bought the state's argument that the statute circumvents ideology by defining "human being," elsewhere in the statute, as "an individual living member of the species Homo sapiens, including the unborn human being during the entire embryonic and fetal ages from fertilization to full gestation." Presto, said the majority-with that definition, the "truthfulness and relevance" of the provision "generates little dispute." Yes, this logic is as tautological as it sounds. The legislature basically defined "human being" to include unborn human beings…As Yale law professor Robert Post says in a 2007 article in the University of Illinois Law Review, "If South Dakota were to enact a statute requiring physicians to inform abortion patients that they were destroying the 'soul' of their unborn progeny, and if it were explicitly to provide in the statute that 'soul' is defined as 'human DNA,' the evasion would be obvious." Instead, South Dakota has co-opted human being and attached its own meaning to it.

If that weren't bad enough, the South Dakota law requires doctors to talk to patients about "increased risk of suicidal ideation and suicide" that allegedly come with undergoing an abortion. While there are some studies that back up claims of increased depression post-abortion, those studies are, to put it mildly, hotly disputed, and many doctors, including some who probably live in South Dakota, don't believe them. "Our doctors are now being asked to say things they do not believe are true," Sarah Stoesz, the head of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota tells Slate. I'm sort of at a loss for what to do, as there are mere weeks before this idiotic law is going into effect, but here's the website for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. They have a pledge you can sign against the South Dakota ruling and information about donating.

Telling Doctors What To Think [Slate]