OUR VIEW: Law requiring suicide notice is too extremeWe are displeased with Tuesday’s 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld part of a South Dakota abortion law enacted in 2005.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
We are displeased with Tuesday’s 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld part of a South Dakota abortion law enacted in 2005.
The relevant portion of the law requires doctors to tell women seeking abortions that they face an increased risk of suicide if they go through with the procedure.
While we certainly want to limit abortions, we recognize that abortion is a legal option in this country. We also affirm the right of women, with the aid of their family and their doctor, to make their own choice to abort a pregnancy, especially when a pregnancy has been the result of rape or incest, or when a pregnancy has endangered the life or health of the mother.
Given that stance, we’ve cautiously supported some legislative efforts to minimize the number of abortions performed in this state. We have opined, for example, that South Dakota’s law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion is probably an acceptable effort on the state’s behalf to prevent a woman from rushing into such a consequential decision.
At some point, however, efforts to limit abortions can become so multi-layered and restrictive that they fundamentally intrude on a woman’s right to a legal procedure. It’s difficult to determine where that line is, but we think the suicide notification goes too far.
Statistics show that women who have had abortions have higher rates of suicide compared to women who have given birth, but the degree to which the abortions cause the suicides is debatable. Common sense tells us there are many reasons a woman may choose to have an abortion. Some of those reasons — including financial pressures and abusive relationships — may be the very same things that cause suicidal thoughts. Drawing a straight line from abortion to suicide oversimplifies the issue and makes the logical foundation for the suicide notification shaky at best.
Beyond the logical argument, the suicide notification just doesn’t pass the smell test. Some abortion restrictions are honest attempts to make sure abortions are not performed without careful consideration. Others are thinly veiled attempts to ban all abortions by throwing up so many roadblocks that getting an abortion becomes impossible. The suicide notification strikes us as an example of the latter.
Yet the notification has been upheld, and it will no doubt embolden the most strident faction of the pro-life camp to seek further legislative restrictions. That will likely result in more referendums and legal battles, and the fight will continue unabated.
And that, really, is the problem at the heart of the suicide notification requirement. Like so many abortion laws, it will only drive a deeper wedge into our politics and do nothing constructive for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. If a woman decides to keep a pregnancy solely because of a doctor’s recitation of suicide statistics — which seems a stretch to us — she will likely continue to be burdened by whatever concerns led her to consider an abortion in the first place.
It’s those underlying concerns we should be worried about. If a woman feels compelled to seek an abortion, there’s a good chance she needs more and better help than a doctor telling her she’s likely to kill herself.