Nebraska First to Allow Women to Sue for Psychological Injuries

Doctors Must Screen for Coercion and Other Risk Factors
for Abortion Complications

Springfield, IL (April 13, 2010) — A new Nebraska law will allow women to sue abortion providers for psychological injuries related to unwanted, coerced or unsafe abortions, according to the Stop Forced Abortions Alliance.

“This is the first law in the country that allows women to hold abortionists accountable for negligent pre-abortion screening and counseling,” said Paula Talley, one of the organizers of Stop Forced Abortions. “If it had been in place in 1980, I would have been spared the years of grief, depression, and substance use which followed my own unwanted abortion.”

Judicial rules normally do not allow women to sue for psychological injuries after abortion unless the injuries stem from a physical injury. The new Nebraska law is the first law in the country to eliminate the requirement that the woman must prove that psychological injuries from an abortion stemmed from a physical injury.

The law also puts into place a specific standard of care for appropriate pre-abortion screening. Abortion providers may be sued for negligence if they fail to ask a woman if she is being pressured, coerced or forced to have an abortion. They may also be held liable if they fail to screen women for other statistically significant risk factors that may put them at higher risk for psychological or physical complications following an abortion.

Research has found that as many as 64 percent of women feel pressured by others to have an abortion. In addition, one study found that even though more than half of women reported feeling rushed or uncertain about the abortion, 84 percent said they did not receive adequate counseling and 67 percent said they weren’t counseled at all.

In Talley’s case, she said, the pressure to abort came from her employer.

“My abortion counselor never asked if I was being pressured,” Talley said. “Nor did she inquire about my psychological history. If she had, she should have known that I was at higher risk of experiencing post-abortion trauma because I had a history of depression. Plus, I had moral beliefs against abortion, but I was rushing into a poorly thought out decision because I was so filled with fear and panic.

“If the abortion counselor had bothered to ask the right questions, she would have seen that I was more likely to be hurt than helped by the abortion, But I was never warned. They just took my money, and my baby, no questions asked.”

The measure easily sailed through Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature with a 40-9 majority. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman is scheduled to sign the bill today. The law will go into effect on July 15.

Legislators Argue Burden and Constitutionality

The law requires that abortion providers must screen women for risk factors that have been established in the research for a year or more prior to the abortion. Legislators opposing the bill argued that it would be nearly impossible for abortion providers to keep track of all the research on risks factors. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cap Dierks, disagreed.

Dierks said that a report from the American Psychological Association found that an average of 12 studies per year are published on the subject.

“Surely it’s not too much to ask abortion providers to read 12 studies per year,” Dierks said. “Women rightly expect their doctors to keep up to date on their area of specialty. Why would we want the standard of care for abortion to be less than that for other medical procedures?”

Among those opposing the bill was Sen. Danielle Conrad, who argued that abortion providers are already giving women sufficient information.

“We do not need an additional layer on top of that,” she said. She also argued that the bill was unconstitutional and placed an undue burden on women.

But Sen. Brad Ashford, an attorney and the chair of the Judiciary Committee that reviewed the bill, told the Legislature that the law did not raise any obvious constitutional issues because it relies only on civil remedies and does not place any burdens on women. He said that any burden caused by the screening requirements falls primarily on the abortion provider, not on the women whose rights are expanded by the bill.

State Lobbying Effort Focused on Injured Women

Greg Schleppenbach, Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, led the lobbying effort for the legislation. He said that “women deserve better than one-size-fits-all counseling — or no counseling at all.”

“Ninety-nine percent of abortions in Nebraska take place in two abortion facilities,” Schleppenbach said. “Their informed consent counseling consists of recorded phone messages 24 hours before the abortions and most women never see the abortion provider except during the 10 minutes or so he is doing the abortion. Women deserve better.”

Schleppenbach said that the stories he had heard from women who have suffered from emotional problems after an abortion provided the impetus for passing legislation that would improve their right to redress.

“Most people don’t realize that under the existing rules of law, it is essentially impossible for women to hold abortion providers liable for inadequate screening and counseling,” he said. “This is why the standard of care for abortion counseling has fallen to such a dismal level. If abortion providers face no liability for inadequate screening, cost-cutting measures will inevitably lead to an assembly line process with one-size-fits-all counseling.â€

Twenty-Five Year Effort to Change Malpractice Laws

Dierks’ bill was patterned after model legislation called the Protection from Coerced and Unsafe Abortions Act. The legislation was developed by the Elliot Institute, a post-abortion research and education group based in Springfield, Ill.

Elliot Institute Director Dr. David Reardon said that inspiration for the bill came from a 1985 article written by the group Feminists for Life.

“The article was identifying obstacles and loopholes in the law that made it nearly impossible for women to recover damages for abortion related injuries,” Reardon said. “Plus, the short statute of limitations when dealing with medical procedures meant it was likely that women injured by abortion wouldn’t be emotionally ready to come forward until it was too late. The article said this was similar to cases in which women who have been raped may feel too ashamed or afraid to come forward.”

Reardon — who is the author of numerous studies linking abortion to higher rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse –said these observations shed new light on something he had been observing in the medical literature on abortion.

“Nearly every study done on abortion and mental health, whether before or since 1985, has found that certain subgroups of women were at higher risk of negative reactions,” he said. “Most of these studies have been done by pro-choice researchers, so you can’t accuse them of bias. Many of the researchers openly recommend that these risk factors should be used to screen for at-risk patients so they could be given more pre- and post-abortion counseling.”

One such study was published in a 1972 issue of Family Planning Perspectives, a publication of Planned Parenthood. The authors of that study found four risk factors that reliably predicted more post-abortion problems. They suggested that pre-abortion screening should be done using a short psychological profile which could be administered for less than a dollar per patient.

A similar 1977 study identified five risk factors that accurately predicted which women would have subsequent problems adjusting after abortion 72 percent of the time. But in interviewing women who were experiencing problems after abortion, Reardon found that abortion providers were ignoring the research. He was unable to find evidence that even one clinic in the country was doing evidenced-based pre-abortion screening.

Reardon said that this observation, combined with the insights from the Feminists for Life article, made him realize that the loophole in the law protecting abortion providers from liability for psychological injuries meant they could simply ignore all of the research on screening and risk factors. In fact, if proper screening led to a reduction of abortion rates among coerced and high risk women, they might actually lose money.

Reardon believes this lack of screening is an act of a medical negligence in and of itself.

“Without screening, it is impossible for a doctor to give informed medical advice,” he said. “Performing an abortion on request, regardless of the risks, is contrary to both medical ethics and the law.”

“If a woman walks into a doctor’s office and says, ‘I have a lump in my breast and need a mastectomy,’ and the doctor says, ‘Jump up on the table and we’ll take it right out,’ we don’t call that medicine. We call that malpractice. Added to that, the situation with abortion is even worse because many women and girls are having abortions they don’t really want, due to lack of resources and support, pressure, coercion, threats, emotional blackmail, disinformation or even force from others.”

Reardon said that while Roe v Wade created a right for women to seek an abortion in consultation with a physician, the Supreme Court also wrote that “the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician.”

Reardon believes that Roe intended for doctors to be held liable for inadequate screening and counseling.

“Nebraska has now done what the states should have been doing a long time ago,” he said. “They have removed the loopholes in civil law that prevent women from being able to hold abortionists accountable for the negligent screening that predictably leads to so many unwanted, unsafe, and unnecessary abortions.”


Nebraska First to Allow Women to Sue for Psychological Injuries — 10 Comments

  1. That’s not choice!! That’s an unchoice, pushed and pushed, that was an unwanted decision, you can’t put blame on the person when they didn’t want this!! If the person wanted their child, you punish them further and say “hey, you did wrong to” that’s not right!!! When the person didn’t want this and was still forced, pushed, or have someone kill her so that she wouldn’t have to continue living with those daily pressures, and people yelling at her to hurry up and making her feel as she is the one being wrong for wanting her child?? This is horrible condeming the victim further, this gets worse and worse for the coerced, and pushed victim, gets attacked, for wanting her baby, wanting to protect her baby, then gets attacked in the aftermath, of this horrible experience!! This is just horrible how people treat a victim of a coerced, forced, pushed abortion she didn’t want to go through in the first
    place.. Does this attack ever end for her???

  2. “Coercion,” exists if the pregnant mother is induced to consent to an abortion by any other person under circumstances, or in such a manner, which deprives her from making a free decision or exercising her free will.

  3. “Coercion,” exists if the pregnant mother has a desire to carry her unborn child and give birth, but is induced, influenced, or persuaded to submit to an abortion by another person or persons against her desire. Such inducement, influence, or persuasion may be by use of, or threat of, force, or may be by pressure or intimidation effected through psychological means, particularly by a person who has a relationship with the pregnant mother that gives that person influence over the pregnant mother.

  4. Sister was wrong for placing guilt to force into disclosing the pregnancy, to a BF that would not accept it and only lead to the BF placing much more pressure and guilt on her stating it was going to ruin his life, (while wanting the baby) but BF harassing and pushing for this day and night every single day?? That’s awful pressures to be surrounded by, with no one on the side to protect and to help her stand up to them both!!! That’s terrible!! It makes someone want to disappear but no where to hide from these extreme pressures! Where do you go? Who do you go to when your being pushed and being pushed by guilt from others telling you that you can’t have a child? Everyone against you??? What do you do?? Being vulnerable state of mind, feeling helpless?? What help is there?? Who would take these people off her back to allow her to live, and breath just to keep her baby??? This is a horrible place to be with no one on your side and only pushing everything to go one way and one way only!! The strongest person would not be able to stand against these daily awful pressures without wanting to kill themselves first! How would you live with these 2-people on you, yelling at you to hurry and get this taken care of??? Where do you go? Was there some kind of housing where you could run to and been protected against these evil pressures?

  5. She pushed for this outcome on me, by not being on my side & not respecting my wants to wait to disclose my precious gift & made me feel guilty for wanting to wait & not tell my ex for a few more weeks, she answered my phone & told him where I was, he came right away, & she made me disclose this after I had explained to her that I wanted to wait, this caused my ex to harass me & torment me day & night, pushing, rushing me telling me I had to fix this & told me I couldn’t do this & ruin his life! He put so much guilt on me, that I couldn’t take his harrassment anymore… My sister drove me & took me as quick as she could, not knowing what she was doing to me!

    She does not care about her child she aborted, she never thought twice about it, she was relieved over hers! She doesn’t feel how I feel, she goes on with her life as if nothing ever happened!!! & it kills me inside that she has this type of attitude about such an awful terrible loss! Last time I ever talked to her 2-years ago, was when she yelled at me for being so devastated over my loss, she yelled, telling me to just move on, get over it & that I wasn’t meant to be a mom. I had to separate myself from her, she’s hurt me so deeply i cant get over the way she has treated me! I never spoke to her after this.

    • I understand. Your hurts are so deep and on so many levels. I only ask you to remember that your sister is likely trying to hide her pain and to deny yours because doing so is “easier” than opening herself up to her own double guilt — her own choice to abort and her pressuring of you to abort.

      Her yelling at you and driving you away is a way in which she is trying to escape the reminder of her own mistakes.

      Please focus on your own need for healing by contacting a post-abortion ministry that can help you. You might also want to try calling 1-800-395-HELP and 1-800-5WE-CARE.

      You are in our prayers.

  6. It’s very unfortunate, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m so upset, resentful, have anger & feel betrayed by my own sister (half sister) older than me, I don’t talk to my sister because of this tragedy, she had first expressed interest in helping me fix things & asked how she could fix things since she could not turn back the clock for me & I told her she would need to help me with making an adoption happen for me, but she turned her back on me & is not willing to help make her wrong doings to me right, I will forever carry a broken heart over my baby that I’ll never see or ever hold because of her!! The fact that she won’t try to fix things & help fill my empty broken heart with making my dreams come true to adopt a daughter that would be the same age, & help with a procedure so that I can carry & have my own child. Her selfishness & cold heart makes me feel resentment toward her & makes it harder to ever forgive her evilness.  

    • I understand your pain and hurt. It runs so deep. But I also know with certainty that she can’t fix it. Even helping with an adoption would not really fix things. You would still not have your child back. You would have a different child to love, but not the child you lost.

      On some level, she knows this, too. Also, I’m not sure how she could help you to adopt. When you say she won’t try, it may really be that she is simply unable to help in any real practical way. Adoption agency people will look at you, not her. So you may be asking the impossible, that somehow she should find a way for you to adopt when really you have to find that way yourself.

      Mostly, I want to emphasize, which you will learn if and when you through a post-abortion healing program, that you need to forgive her and anyone else involved, even the abortionist. Forgiving others is a way you will also experience and recognize that you too are forgiven, by both God and your child.

      I’m not trying to excuse what she did. She did wrong. But when you gave into her pressure, you did, too.

      The important thing is to stop living in the past and finding blame, but rather to look to the future and to use what you have learned from your past to help yourself and others make better choices in the future. Focusing on adopting or having a baby someday is good. Focusing on your anger toward your sister is self-defeating. It would be far better for both of you to go through post-abortion healing together, crying together, mourning together, and looking forward to doing better together.

      It’s not easy. But you can put the past behind you and not only heal your relationship with your sister but make it deeper and more committed because she will not only “owe” you for giving you bad advice but will also “owe” you for forgiving her hand helping her to heal from her own wounds.

      You are both in our prayers.

  7. I would like to know, if I can sue in California, i was coerced by my ex boyfriend and sister, my sister pushed me into it, & pressured me to tell my ex i was pregnant although i told her i wanted to wait a few more weeks, until I felt it was safe to tell him like until I was at least 3-4 months (in my 2nd trimester) because by then he would not had been able to change what was already near existing! She was against me & pressured me to disclose it on the same day I had found out at 6-weeks, going as far as answering his calls that I was avoiding! Then to later find out she was pregnant by a married man & she was going to have an abortion without telling me this was her plan before she even drove me to this awful dreaded place where they took my precious blessing forever!! This happened 12-yrs ago, they put a lot of guilt on me starting with my sister to disclose my baby’s existence to my ex who harassed me day & night due to my sister pushing me to disclose so early! How would I get the info for the abortionist who did this to me? Can I still do anything, I haven’t been the same, I can’t let go of this tragedy & I really wanted my baby, I get so much pain & regret to have given in to their pressures that i feel that I can’t breath!

    • While you could and maybe should talk to an attorney, I expect that the answer will be “No. There is nothing we can do.” If you found an attorney interested in taking the case, we would be glad to help provide information and research which might help, but unfortunately I expect that the law in California would present too many hurdles in the way of any suit you might try to file.

      By the way, it is possible that your sister, already contemplating an abortion, was emotionally invested in seeing you make the same decision for one or both of the following reasons. (1) So your decision to abort would show “approval” or “solidarity” with her decision, and/or (2) so she would not feel the regrets and jealousy of seeing you getting to deliver your baby and seeing you playing with and enjoying your child…who would always be a reminder of the same aged child that she had aborted.

      I’m very sorry for you. You are in our prayers. We encourage you to participate in a post-abortion healing program…and if you can, take your sister with you.

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