State Law Allowing Suits Against Abortion Clinics Being Appealed

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Defenders of both sides of the abortion issue are awaiting the outcome of a Louisiana court case that will determine whether state residents can capitalize on a 1997 law giving them the right to file damage suits against clinics that perform the procedure.

The law would apply even to women who signed a consent form at the clinic, indicating they were advised of their options and of the medical dangers associated with abortion.

Enacted in 1997, Act 825 was appealed almost immediately after its passage. Pro-choice supporters lost that case but won the court's attention again recently with the granting of a second appeal, to be decided within the next few weeks.

"It's basically a malpractice law," said Andy Blom, communications director for Human Life International, a Catholic-based pro-life, pro-family organization whose members have been monitoring the case. "It (says women) can sue for up to 10 years after an abortion for physical or emotional problems."

The act, he said, also created a "level playing field" among medical officials since those who performed abortions would be held to the same standard of accountability as those who specialized in other surgical procedures.

Opponents of the law have reportedly claimed it has a "chilling effect" on a woman's right to abortion, Blom said, in that doctors concerned with retribution could delay or avoid performance of the procedure.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America officials were unable to respond with comment in a timely manner.

"More women die from (legalized) abortions than from back alley abortions," Blom said, adding that was the real "chilling effect" of abortion, and that most clinic personnel did not advise potential patients of all the health risks associated with the procedure and of their options. "I think women have a 50 percent higher chance for breast cancer after the first abortion ... and premature births. There's a catalogue for physical problems that people aren't told about," he said.

Also rarely mentioned by clinic officials, Blom said, were the mental risks associated with abortion. Calling the psychological effects of abortion a "very legitimate and serious problem" in that trauma could lead to marriage dissolutions and suicides, Blom said the 10-year statute of limitation for lawsuit afforded by the state act was appropriate.

"Sometimes, the manifestations of emotional traumas aren't easily apparent," Blom said. "But many people don't realize the extent of the suffering. Killing a baby ... that's a terrible burden to carry around."

Plaintiffs in cases against the abortion clinics could gain immeasurably from their suits, Blom said, especially in instances where the woman could no longer have children because of her procedure.