A doctor does not have to tell a woman considering an abortion that her embryo is an "existing human being," the New Jersey Supreme court ruled unanimously Wednesday.
New Jersey Justice Barry T. Albin, who wrote for the court, expressed that the justices were "sympathetic to the deep pain [the] plaintiff has suffered in the aftermath of the termination of her pregnancy," but noted that "[o]n the profound issue of when life begins, this Court cannot drive public policy in one direction by the engine of the common law …."
"[W]e do not find that the common law commands a physician to inform a pregnant patient that an embryo is an existing, living human being and that an abortion results in the killing of a family member," he wrote.
As a result, the 5-0 Supreme Court ruling reversed a unanimous ruling by a three-judge appeals panel and dismissed the lawsuit of Rose Acuna, the woman who accused her doctor of failing to give enough information before she signed a consent form for him to perform an abortion.
Acuna's lawyer, Harold J. Cassidy, said he was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Millions of women across the nation have made the same complaint as Mrs. Acuna," said Cassidy, an anti-abortion lawyer based in Monmouth County.
"They have lost something of great value, which is dismissed as mere tissue," added Cassidy, according to The Associated Press.
Acuna was 29 when she signed a consent form in 1996 for Dr. Sheldon C. Turkish to perform an abortion while she was in her sixth to seventh week of pregnancy.
"According to Acuna, Turkish told her that she 'needed an abortion because [y]our kidneys are messing you up,'" court papers reported. "Acuna asked Turkish whether 'the baby was already there.' According to Acuna, Turkish replied, 'Don't be stupid, it's only blood.'"
After signing the consent form and having the abortion, the bleeding still continued, however. When Acuna went to a hospital seven weeks later, she was diagnosed with an incomplete abortion and had another procedure.
"According to her, one of the nurses caring for her explained that the procedure was necessary because Turkish 'had left parts of the baby inside of [her].' Thus, Acuna concluded based on the reference to 'the baby' that she had given consent to an abortion based on erroneous information," the appellate panel wrote last year.
Acuna, now 40, says she suffered emotional distress for the death of an unborn child.
Commenting on Wednesday's Supreme Court decision, Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said the court "has placed itself embarrassingly behind the times by failing to hold doctors accountable for telling patients what grade school children already know about when a human life begins."
"Moreover, abortionists are tearing arms and legs off of children in the womb, not destroying some unidentified mass of tissue whose species scientists don't know how to figure out," he added in a released statement.
Marie Tasy, executive director of the anti-abortion group New Jersey Right to Life, also decried the ruling.
"My reaction is that once again the court relies on an outdated schizophrenic mentality to the detriment of women and indulges in semantic gymnastics to avoid the indisputable fact that a child in the womb is a human being," she said.
The doctor's lawyer, John Zen Jackson, however, said "the court properly recognized there are limits to a physician's duty in obtaining a patient's consent."
Acuna's lawyer, who is widely recognized for his work in anti-abortion cases, said that he had spoken to his client after the ruling and that although she was disappointed, the decision "deepened her resolve, and she has instructed me to file a petition in the United States Supreme Court," according to the New York Times.
In addition to this case, Cassidy is also involved in an Illinois case in which his client alleges that Planned Parenthood of the Chicago Area deceived women seeking to undergo abortions.