American Medical Association sues North Dakota over abortion counseling law

Posted at 3:54 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 17:54:34-04

The American Medical Association, the main industry group for doctors, is taking North Dakota to court over abortion counseling requirements that the group says violate medical ethics.

The AMA argues that a federal judge should block North Dakota’s rules, claiming that they “compel physicians and their agents to speak government-mandated messages that entail providing to their patients misleading or even patently false, non-medical information with which they disagree,” according to the lawsuit.

The new challenge from the medical establishment comes amid a recent escalation in abortion politics nationwide. The group previously joined a lawsuitagainst President Donald Trump in March over his administration’s efforts to bar health care providers who receive Title X funds from discussing abortion with patients or offer referrals for the procedure.

Abortion rights advocates have challenged several recent laws restricting access to the procedure, setting up a possible reckoning for Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued Alabama in May and Arkansas and Georgia last week.

The AMA case in North Dakota focuses on the state’s code requiring physicians to tell patients that the procedure “will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” as well as a new state law that would require physicians to tell patients that it may be possible to reverse the effects of medication abortion.

The AMA argues that the requirements infringe on providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing providers to convey a claim “about fetal personhood that is unmoored from medical science” and about medication abortion that is “wholly unsupported by the best, most reliable scientific evidence.”

AMA President Patrice Harris said in a statement that the laws threaten patient-physician relationships, which she called “the cornerstone of health care.”

“North Dakota’s law undermines this relationship by requiring physicians to mislead and misinform their patients with messages that contradict reality and science,” she added. “The AMA will always defend science and open conversations about all health care options available to patients.”

The AMA filed the suit last week along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and member health care providers. It names North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Cass County State Attorney Birch Burdick in their official capacities.

A spokesperson for Stenehjem told CNN that the complaint is under review.

Burdick told CNN that a response would be filed “in due course” — probably a few weeks, he said.

“The Legislature from time to time passes laws related to this same topic and they have been challenged before,” he said. “And so I expect it will just let the court system sort it out.”