Planned Parenthood is suing the state of South Dakota, saying its new abortion law threatens women's privacy and free speech. The co-founder of a South Dakota crisis pregnancy center says the real threat is to abortion provider's business model, which relies on women being coerced into abortion.
“A woman who's being asked to destroy her unborn child with a 72-hour waiting period – a time to learn all about what this procedure is, to think about it, and to get as much information as possible – is a major threat to Planned Parenthood, because it's going to affect their bottom line,” said Dr. Allen Unruh, a physician who founded the Alpha Center with his wife Leslee in 1984.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on May 27 with the U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, seeking to block the July 1 implementation of the abortion bill that was signed into law on March 22.
The statute requires women to wait three days before having an abortion, and to receive medical information about the procedure along with information about alternatives.
A doctor must also certify that the woman is seeking an abortion voluntarily, rather than being coerced by someone else.
Dr. Unruh, who studied abortion for a state task force in 2005, said that Planned Parenthood maintains willful ignorance about the majority of women who have abortions against their will.
The threats often come from a boyfriend, husband, parent, or other party.
“The task force revealed it was 65 percent,” Dr. Unruh told CNA in a May 31 interview. “Planned Parenthood admitted under oath that they don't have anybody who has any training, of any kind, in counseling to determine when a woman's being coerced.”
Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota said that South Dakota's new law “goes farther than any other in the country in intruding on the doctor-patient relationship and putting women and families at risk.”
Planned Parenthood maintains that the law violates women's freedom of speech, by forcing them to discuss medical issues with crisis pregnancy counselors. Mimi Liu, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, said the law wouldn't bar pregnancy centers from “disseminating false and misleading information.”
Dr. Unruh – whose Alpha Center has filed to provide women with counseling under the law – said the legislation was a necessary legal response to the problem of women forced into abortion.
“No woman should be forced to kill her unborn child against her will. That's why the legislature responded,” he explained. “The law requires them to get the counseling at a pregnancy care center, because we know Planned Parenthood will not police themselves.”
Nor, he said, does Planned Parenthood offer the authentic “doctor-patient relationship” they claim to be protecting.
“There's zero 'doctor-patient relationship' in an abortion procedure,” Dr. Unruh stated. Often, he said, “the first time a woman meets the doctor is when she's unclothed in an operating room, and the machine is so loud she doesn't have a chance to talk to him.”
“Our services are free,” he said. “We don't charge anything. We don't have a conflict of interest.”
“At Planned Parenthood, women have to pay cash up front before they even see the doctor. They've had no history, no examination, no consultation by a qualified person. They call this 'free speech rights.'”
He pointed out that Planned Parenthood does not present the truth about fetal development, or the risks associated with abortion.
“They testified to the task force, that when a woman says 'Is it a baby yet?', they will never, ever admit the humanity of a unborn child. They say it's nothing but 'tissue' and 'cells,' it's 'protoplasm.'”
“If anything's false and misleading, it's that.”
Dr. Unruh also noted the irony of Planned Parenthood boasting of its medical credentials, while attempting to keep women from learning more about its most profitable procedure.
He cited the Hippocratic Oath – which, in its original form forbids abortion – to explain the physician's duty to inform patients about facts and risks.
“All medical doctors take an oath: 'First, do no harm.' That's the oath above every medical procedure,” he explained. “Doctors have an ethical obligation to provide information, and to answer all questions a patient has.”
Crisis pregnancy centers, he explained, should be seen as performing a service in the interest of both personal and public health.
“I don't care if you're just removing a wart – you want to know what the biopsy says, what the risks are of the surgery. You should have the right, as a patient, to learn all about the surgery.”
The doctor also found some irony in comparing the new abortion law with another South Dakota statute that imposes a decision-making period.
“We have a law in South Dakota requiring a 72-hour waiting period to buy real estate,” he observed. “Anybody has a right to change their mind.”
“I think an unborn child is more valuable to a person than real estate.”
State Representative Roger Hunt, who sponsored the new law, saw Planned Parenthood's challenge coming.
“I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that they've filed a lawsuit,” Hunt told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “We've been expecting this and preparing for it.”
The state's Life Defense Fund, which defends South Dakota's abortion laws with the help of private donations, has more than doubled since the passage of the waiting-period and counseling law. Hunt says the state will only have to pay legal fees if Planned Parenthood's challenge succeeds.