Pro-Choice Group Files Suit Challenging Nebraska Law

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Pro-Choice Group Files Suit Challenging Nebraska Law

Jodi Jacobson

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska's LB 594, the "Women’s Health Protection Act," imposes requirements on physicians that are impossible to meet and requires medical professionals to flood their patients with false and misleading information.

This morning, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska’s LB 594, the “Women’s Health Protection Act.” The Act, passed in April and scheduled to go into effect on July 15, 2010, “purports to ensure that women are ‘informed’ before consenting to an abortion, but actually imposes requirements that are both impossible to meet and require physicians to flood their patients with false and misleading information,” according to PPH.

The lawsuit names as defendants Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning; Kerry Winterer and Dr. Joann Schaefer of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and Crystal Higgins and Brenda Bergman-Evans of the Nebraska Boards of Nursing and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.

LB 594, which would force women to undergo extensive mental health assessment prior to obtaining an abortion before 20 weeks based on spurious “evidence,” was signed into law at the same time as LB 1103, which criminalized almost all abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

LB 594’s proposed method of “protecting women” seeking to terminate a pregnancy is to force medical practitioners to provide them with unfiltered, often outdated and erroneous “medical information.”

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In a press conference this morning, Jill June, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, stated that:

LB 594 tramples on existing informed consent practices and is detrimental to patients.  Current informed consent practices require a doctor to use his or her medical judgment to provide patients with the most up-to-date, relevant, and best information available so the patient can make an informed decision. This Act requires physicians to review thousands upon thousands of articles, many of them decades old and out-of-date, many of them debunked, many of them irrelevant to current medical practice and to the individual patient’s care. Under LB594, doctors are forced to disclose the information in all of these studies and articles without regard to the validity and without regard to the applicability to the patient.

“As a result,” June noted, “this Act requires a physician to betray the doctor-patient relationship by lying to her, intimidating her, and providing false and irrelevant information without being able to use his or her medical judgment.  This violates the ethics and integrity of the medical profession and is against everything we know to be right in medicine.”  Moreover, according to PPH, doctors would have no way of knowing if they are in “compliance” with the Act, because the broad scope of LB 594 not only requires the disclosure of false, inaccurate and potentially harmful information to patients seeking medical care, but also makes compliance impossible.

If the physician, using their best medical judgment, refuses to report the false information required by this Act, or if the physician missed one article among the many thousands, then the physician can be sued. The license of the clinic he or she works in can be revoked. The licenses of nurses assisting the physician can be disciplined. 

The suit maintains that because the requirements are too vague for a physician to be certain that he or she has complied, it is unconstitutional to force physicians either to cease providing abortion care, or always be at risk of penalty for non-compliance.

The suit also maintains that it is a violation of doctors’ first amendment rights to compel them to make medical statements they know are false.

June stated:

Our clients rely upon us to provide honest, medically accurate and client-centered information. We are filing suit today so that women can make truly informed decisions about their health care. Presenting pseudo-science as fact is something that Planned Parenthood does not do.

This Act, continued June “is an attack on our patients. It is an attack on providers. And it is an attack on the ethics and integrity of the medical profession.  It is about intimidation and not health care. For those reasons we are filing this lawsuit…and we intend to take [it] as far as necessary to protect the rights and health of the women we serve.”