Women seeking an abortion must be told that the procedure ends a human life, a federal judge ruled Thursday, upholding part of a South Dakota law.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier said doctors must disclose to pregnant women that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."
But she rejected other portions of the state's 2005 informed consent law that required doctors to tell women that abortion increases the risk of suicide and that they have "an existing relationship with that unborn human being."
"A legal relationship requires two people. The United States Constitution does not recognize an unborn embryo or fetus as a 'person,' in the legal sense," Schreier stated.
Assistant Attorney General John Guhin praised the ruling, commenting, "I think the most important part of the statute has been upheld."
Leslee Unruh, founder of the Alpha Center pregnancy counseling center in Sioux Falls, plans to appeal the judge's decisions on the suicide and relationship disclosures but still sees the overall ruling as a major step for the pro-life cause.
"This is the unraveling of Roe [v. Wade]," Unruh told The Associated Press. "We take the human being part and go to the Supreme Court and put the human relationship in. That knocks out Roe v. Wade."
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota filed a lawsuit against the state in 2005, alleging that the language in the law was "ideologically charged" and unconstitutional.
The informed consent law was blocked by Schreier from going into effect until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit lifted the preliminary injunction in July 2008.
Planned Parenthood called Schreier's latest decision a "major victory" despite the judge's decision to uphold the "human being" portion of the law.
Just weeks before this week's ruling, the state Department of Health sent Planned Parenthood a notice warning that South Dakota's only abortion clinic could lose its license and be shut down. Health officials said the wording of the clinic's disclosure form must match the language required by the informed consent law.
Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said the clinic will submit a plan Monday on how the clinic intends to comply with the 2005 law.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health will review the judge's decision and implement it, Guhin said.
"We've taken the view, at least with regard to the human being disclosure, that since the 8th Circuit ruled they've been obligated to comply, which is over a year ago," he said, according to AP.