SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (AP) — Doctors in South Dakota must warn women seeking abortions that they face an increased risk of suicide if they go through with the procedure, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, though it's not clear whether a causal link exists.
Abortion remains one of the most sensitive issues in the U.S., with more conservative states continuing to challenge it. In 2011, 24 states enacted a record 92 provisions restricting access to abortion services in some way, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights organization that tracks such proposals. This year, dozens more provisions have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide.
On Tuesday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the portion of the 2005 South Dakota law dealing with the suicide warning in a 7-4 vote.
"On its face, the suicide advisory presents neither an undue burden on abortion rights nor a violation of physicians' free speech rights," the court wrote in its majority opinion.
The ruling overturns decisions by a three-judge appeals panel and a U.S. district judge after a challenge by Planned Parenthood, a national organization that provides health services, including abortions, to women.
Statistics show that women who have had abortions have higher rates of suicide compared with women who've given birth, but there's no agreement on a causal link between abortion and suicide.
The four dissenting judges said multiple studies cited failed to take into account factors such as pre-existing mental health issues, domestic violence and a young age at the time of pregnancy.
The state disagreed, submitting several studies to demonstrate a "statistically significant correlation between abortion and suicide."
Attorney General Marty Jackley and representatives of Planned Parenthood were not immediately available for comment.
Leslee Unruh, the founder of the Alpha Center pregnancy counseling center in Sioux Falls, which seeks to persuade women not to seek abortions, applauded Tuesday's decision.
"We are thrilled," she said.
The suicide advisory was part of a broader law requiring South Dakota doctors to provide women with certain information before an abortion can be voluntary.
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