Court to rehear case against S.D. abortion law

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal appeals court has agreed to rehear a challenge of a 2005 South Dakota law that would require doctors to tell women seeking abortions that the procedure ends a human life.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the full 11-judge court will hear arguments April 11 in St. Louis.

A three-judge panel of the court had ruled 2-1 in October to uphold a lower court's order blocking enforcement of the law until that court decides a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The appeals court only grants about one in 50 requests for a full court rehearing, state Attorney General Larry Long said Wednesday. "This is a rare and unusual event, and we're just delighted."

The temporary restraining order was issued by U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in Rapid City, who said plaintiff Planned Parenthood has a fair chance of succeeding in its claim that the law violates doctors' free-speech rights.

The 2005 measure is not a direct challenge to the constitutionality of abortion but is aimed at testing the limits of what a state can require women be told before getting abortions.

It would require doctors to tell women that abortions end human lives and may cause serious psychological problems, and that the women have legal relationship with her unborn children that are ended by abortion.

Doctor would be required to give the patients a written document including the statement that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

The state argues that the required information is medically accurate, supported by science and would not curb reasonable access to abortion in South Dakota.

Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, the only clinic that provides abortions in South Dakota, said the organization believes the court will decide the law is an unconstitutional attempt by the state to force its ideology on patients and to force doctors to say things they may not believe.

South Dakota has been heavily involved for years in attempts to limit abortion.

The Legislature last March passed a law that sought to ban nearly all abortions. The measure was intended to prompt a legal challenge aimed at getting the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. However, the measure was referred to a statewide public vote and voters in November rejected the ban 56 percent to 44 percent.