Supporting the Informed Consent Bill

ACLJ Testifies in Maryland Legislature in Favor of Informed Consent Bill


Last Friday, I had the privilege of testifying before Maryland State Legislators as a witness defending the constitutionality of the pro-life Woman’s Right to Know Act. Simply speaking, this bill would require that women seeking an abortion be informed about alternatives to abortion, and about the abortion procedure itself, including adverse effects.

Maryland is one of the states that has the most permissive abortion laws in the country. For instance, New York-style late term abortion on demand is allowed. In addition, while Maryland law requires that a parent or guardian of a minor be notified before a minor has an abortion, that same law allows notification to be waived by the doctor if the doctor determines – among other things – that the minor is mature and capable of giving informed consent, or if notification would not be in the minor’s best interest.

Just so we are clear – Maryland law gives the decision on whether consent is informed or a minor is mature enough to have an abortion to the person who financially profits from the abortion.

The bill that I defended, H.B. 1075, the Woman’s Right to Know Act, would ensure that women in Maryland are truly informed of alternatives to abortion and that women are aware of the nature and risks of abortion procedures.

The bill requires that the physician performing the abortion, or the referring physician, inform the woman 24 hours prior to the abortion “that medical assistance benefits may be available for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care.” Also, they are to inform the woman “that the father is liable to assist in support of the woman’s child, even if the father offered to pay for the abortion.” The bill further requires the physician or a qualified technician to perform an ultrasound, so that the woman can see her unborn child, and in order to determine whether the baby has a heartbeat.

Finally, the bill requires the Maryland Department of Health to make publicly available, via website, information about public and private agencies and services that provide assistance if a woman chooses to keep her baby, and to provide materials that accurately describe both the abortion procedures and risks.

All of these requirements should be unobjectionable, as they ensure that a woman is fully informed on a subject and procedure that will affect her for the rest of her life.

As I stated in my written testimony:

If you only have one option, it is not a real choice. As the Supreme Court stated in Casey, what abortion laws serve to protect “is the woman’s right to make the ultimate decision, not a right to be insulated from all other [decisions] in doing so.”

Abortion is an act that is intended to permanently end the life of an unborn child. That act is extremely grave, gruesome, and irreversible. Thus, a woman’s decision should be fully informed, and should be made only after careful consideration of all the facts.

Informed consent laws, such as HB 1075, properly require doctors and assistants to disclose to women the nature and risks of the abortion procedure, as well as the effect of the abortion on the unborn child – namely, the type of procedure that will be performed, as well as the pain the unborn child may feel during abortion that end his or her life. HB 1075 also appropriately requires that women be informed of alternatives to abortion, and that they be counseled accordingly.

Abortion can cause physical harm, beyond the death of the unborn child. This can result directly from the procedure itself (e.g., perforation of the uterus, laceration of the cervix), from the deprivation of the health benefits of continuing pregnancy (e.g., eliminating the protective effect of a full-term pregnancy against breast cancer), or by masking other dangerous symptoms (e.g., a woman with an infection or an ectopic pregnancy may believe her symptoms are merely normal after-effects of abortion, leading her to delay seeking medical help).

Ensuring that a woman is fully aware of all these facts informs her decision and truly gives her choices.

It is undisputed that the abortion precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court allow states to create and enforce “[r]egulations which do no more than create a structural mechanism by which the State or the parent or guardian of a minor, may express profound respect for the life of the unborn . . . if they are not a substantial obstacle to the woman’s exercise of the right to choose.” Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 877 (1992); reaffirmed in Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 146 (2007).

According to reports, “approximately 40 percent of post-aborted women were still hoping to discover some alternative to abortion when going for counseling at the abortion clinic.” Moreover, the negative effects of abortion upon a woman’s physical and mental health after abortion have now been documented extensively.

The Supreme Court has previously and repeatedly recognized, “Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.” Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 325 (1980). This is important to note, as it highlights the significance of ensuring that women are fully informed about abortion procedures and their consequences.

As stated above, full and complete disclosure of all options and all facts is what creates choice. Failure to fully inform a woman of all the facts of and alternatives to abortion leads to compulsion, and H.B. 1075 is an important step in ensuring that women are fully informed and are exercising true choice.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU also had representatives testifying at the hearing, in opposition to the Woman’s Right to Know Act and nearly a dozen other pro-life bills. Not once did Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or the ACLU make the argument that these pro-life bills are unconstitutional – because they aren’t. Instead, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU simply argued that these bills would keep women from having abortions. Gone is any false argument that these organizations want to keep abortions “safe, legal, and rare.” These organizations are letting their true colors show – they want abortion available on demand at any time for any woman in any situation.

The sad thing is, that shocking as that sounds, we’ve known this all along and it really isn’t that shocking.

However, it’s time these organizations face reality, and that reality is that a majority of U.S. citizens favor restrictions on abortion. It is critically important that pro-life people take a firm stand for truth and justice. The truth that these babies are human beings from the point of conception and are worthy of protection, and justice in the form of legal protections for these innocent human beings. It is time to put an end to the laws that have allowed the legal and merciless slaughter of our little children.

Last Friday I spoke on behalf of over 164,000 concerned citizens, including nearly 2,000 from Maryland who have signed onto our Committee to Defend Prolife Laws. You also have the opportunity to stand with us and to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Join with us in protecting the innocent and vulnerable. Sign our petition.

Used with the permission of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Olivia Summers is Associate Counsel for Public Policy with the ACLJ, focusing on pro-life advocacy and protecting the freedoms of speech and religion. Olivia earned her Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law. While at Regent, Olivia clerked for the ACLJ and served as a board member for Regent Journal of International Law, was a member of the Honor Council, and was actively involved in Regent Students for Life. In addition, Olivia spent one summer interning at the ECLJ where she gained experience in international law and human rights issues. Prior to attending Regent, Olivia earned her B.A. in History from the University of Wyoming. Olivia joined the ACLJ full-time after graduating from Regent. She is admitted to practice in Virginia and Washington D.C.