In a decided and dangerous victory of politics over science, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 24 upheld a 2005 South Dakota law requiring physicians to advise women seeking abortions that they face an increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts if they obtain the procedure. Not only is this requirement unsupported by the evidence, it also continues and validates a deeply troubling trend under which states have enacted a range of misleading counseling requirements on the supposed physical and mental health risks of abortion designed to dissuade women from obtaining an abortion. Although these measures are labeled "informed consent" laws, they in fact undermine the fundamental ethical principle of informed consent by requiring health care providers to provide misinformation to their patients.

The court decision on the South Dakota law requiring that women be informed of their increased suicide risk should they obtain an abortion is contradicted by the overwhelming weight of the highest quality scientific evidence available:

The court decision on the South Dakota law appears to rely heavily on the work of Priscilla Coleman, a professor of human development and family studies at Bowling Green University. However, Coleman's work has repeatedly come under strong criticism by respected members of the scientific community:

Laws such as South Dakota's, which are grounded in spurious research rather than the best-available scientific evidence, not only represent a gross intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship, they also endanger the health and rights of women, by intentionally misinforming them on important medical matters. It is highly unfortunate that, even when widely recognized as such within the scientific community, discredited studies can have far-reaching consequences.

For more information:

Study purporting to show link between abortion and mental health outcomes decisively debunked

How mandatory counseling laws turn the principle of informed consent on its head

State mandatory counseling requirements for abortion