Injunction Doesn’t Stop Lawsuits
Under New Nebraska Law
Women Can Still File Suit After Judge’s Ruling
Springfield, IL (July 21, 2010) — Despite media reports to the contrary, women are still able to file lawsuits for negligent screening and psychological injuries under a Nebraska law.
In a preliminary ruling issued July 14, Federal District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled that neither the effective date of the bill nor the law itself could be enjoined, clearing the way for the law to go into effect July 15.
Camp also rejected a motion brought by Nebraska’s Planned Parenthood affiliate to strike the legislature’s finding of fact that was included in the law, which states that “the existing standard of care for pre-abortion screening and counseling is not always adequate to protect the health needs of women.”
However, the court did grant a preliminary injunction to protect Planned Parenthood and its employees from any criminal penalties, fines, or loss of license in the event they fail to provide the standard of care required by the law. This does not effect women’s ability to sue for negligent screening or psychological damages while the injunction is in effect.
Specifically, the injunction prohibits the state attorney general, the governor, and other officers of the state from seeking to use the new law as a basis for revoking the licenses of abortion clinics or for engaging in other disciplinary measures against clinics or their staff.
Reports from the Associated Press and other news outlets had suggested the the injunction stopped the law from taking effect. However, the law was never intended to provide for prosecution by state authorities, but was simply meant to allow abortion patients or their survivors to more easily hold abortion providers accountable for negligent screening. That aspect of the law has not been affected by the ruling.
Therefore, women who have been injured by abortion can still bring suit against abortion businesses that failed to protect their rights and exposed them to unwanted, coerced and unsafe abortions.
Law Expands the Rights of Women, Protects Against Coerced and Unsafe Abortions
Until now, women who experienced psychological problems after an abortion had no standing to sue abortionists for subsequent psychological problems, even when the women were coerced into unwanted abortions. The Nebraska law removes that legal obstacle and also clarifies the standard of care for appropriate pre-abortion screening.
A key aspect of the law is that it exposes abortion providers to lawsuits for negligence if they fail to ask a woman if she is being pressured, coerced or forced to undergo an unwanted abortion.
This could affect many women, as one study found that 64 percent of women who had abortions reported that they felt pressured by others to do so. Numerous studies have also shown that women who are pressured to abort are at much higher risk of experiencing psychological complications following the abortion.
While the new law does not ban abortions in such cases, supporters say it will give women who are being pressured or coerced an opportunity to discuss the situation and receive information about how coerced and unwanted abortion increases their risk of more severe post-abortion reactions. Supporters believe this new standard for screening and counseling will help prevent many unwanted abortions.
Paula Talley, an organizer of the Stop Forced Abortions Alliance, a group that backed the bill, believes having such a law 30 years ago would have prevented her from undergoing an unwanted abortion.
“If this law 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,” Talley said. “My abortion counselor never asked if I was being pressured, nor did she inquire about my psychological history. If she had, she would have known that I was at higher risk of experiencing post-abortion trauma because I had a history of depression.”
Talley said that she was being pressured to abort by her employer, an issue that was never addressed by abortion clinic staff. Although she had moral beliefs against abortion–which is recognized by researchers as a risk factor for psychological problems after abortion–feelings of fear and panic made her feel she had to undergo the abortion.”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,” Talley added. “But I was never warned. They just took my money, and my baby, no questions asked.”
The Elliot Institute is dedicated to conducting original research on the impact of abortion on women and to promoting efforts to create a safe, healing environment for those struggling with a past abortion. The Stop Forced Abortions Alliance is a project of the Elliot Institute.