Whitney D. Pile


Since the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, the law governing the regulation of abortions has been in a constant state of flux. After the legalization of abortion, states began enacting informed consent laws in order to regulate what information a woman must be given before terminating her pregnancy; today, a total of 32 states have an informed consent law of some kind. Many informed consent laws, such as that of Missouri, require that a woman receive information at least 24 hours before undergoing an abortion and that the abortion providers disclose the physical and mental risks involved with the termination of pregnancy. However, states are increasingly considering informed consent laws that go well beyond merely informing women of health risks associated with abortion. Fueled by pressure from anti-choice groups and bolstered by a predominantly conservative Supreme Court, state legislatures introduced 92 bills regarding the expansion of informed consent requirements in 2006 alone. Proponents of expanded informed consent laws argue that such measures are necessary not only to protect the potential lives of fetuses, but alsobecause some women are ignorant to what it means to be pregnant and may falsely believe that an abortion is merely a surgical operation that involves removing tissue. In response, pro-choice groups argue that such informed consent laws are meant only to scare and mislead women who have otherwise made an informed choice to terminate their pregnancies. In the past, courts have focused mostly on the rights of women and their unborn fetuses, but informed consent laws also directly implicate the rights of another group - abortion providers. While states are undoubtedly free to regulate abortions and to promote childbirth, problems arise when states compel physicians to deliver to their patients information with which the physicians themselves do not agree. In Planned Parenthood Minnesota v. Rounds, a 3-judge panel for the Eighth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction against a South Dakota law compelling physicians to inform patients that an abortion terminates "the life of a whole separate, unique, living human being," stating that the challenged disclosures could be found to violate the First Amendment rights of physicians. This Note argues that Planned Parenthood Minnesota v. Rounds was correctly decided; it further argues that informed consent laws which force physicians to disseminate the State's moral ideology fall outside the purview of protections given to informed consent laws that involve the disclosure of scientific facts.

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