Summary: The Abortion with Dignity Act would provide a reproductive healthcare patient the right to sign a waiver to eliminate waiting periods, the requirement to hear medical misinformation, or other requirements that are not part of true informed consent.
Many states have enacted anti-abortion statutes that directly violate the basic tenets of informed consent. These are laws that force patients to: receive biased, inaccurate or misleading information or unnecessary diagnostic testing; hear about junk science and unproven medical procedures; or listen to and view information intended to shame and demean them. These are also laws that require multiple trips to a clinic and medically unnecessary days-long waiting periods for no other reason than to show the state’s disapproval of a woman’s personal medical decision.
For example, patients have been denied informed consent:
- In Texas, where women who are seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound, whether or not the doctor thinks it is necessary, and the doctor is required to display the image and provide a description of the image to the patient even though these requirements have no medical basis.
- In South Dakota, where women are compelled to hear inaccurate state-mandated information from their physicians, then required to wait 72 hours before they are permitted to obtain an abortion even though this wait is not medically necessary.
- In Louisiana, where patients are required to listen to state-mandated information about a medically disproven link between abortion and mental health problems.
These laws force patients to hear information that is not only biased and misleading, but they also undermine women’s ability to give true informed consent to their health care providers.
The concept of informed consent comes from the basic right of all patients “to determine what shall be done to his or her body.” Therefore, health care providers must disclose to their patients “all medical information that a reasonably prudent patient would find material before deciding whether to undergo a medical procedure” so that the patient can “make an informed decision in foregoing or assenting to a medical procedure.” In fact, medical ethics require that patients be offered objective, accurate information so that they can make their own decisions about treatment, and obligate health care providers to “present the medical facts accurately to the patient…and to make recommendations for management in accordance with good medical practice.”
The Abortion with Dignity Act would give back to patients their right to true informed consent by allowing them to waive non-medical, ideological state requirements that are not intended to enhance informed consent. This bill recognizes that after receiving medically appropriate counseling and information from her physician or health care provider, it is not in the patient’s best interests to force her to receive additional, non-medical information, or wait an unnecessary, state-imposed period of time, if she and her health care provider do not believe that such actions would add to her ability to make an informed medical decision.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Abortion with Dignity Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature finds that:
1) All patients deserve accurate information about their medical options and pregnant women are entitled to accurate information about all of their pregnancy options.
2) Medical ethics require that patients be offered objective, accurate information so that they can make their own decisions about treatment, obligate health care providers to present the medical facts accurately to the patient, and require providers to make recommendations for management in accordance with sound medical practice.
3) True informed consent, based on medical provider expertise and the patient’s individualized situation, is a critical part of health care. All patients have the right to be given information about the medical treatment they may undergo and to consider for themselves, in consultation with their health care provider, the risks and benefits of that care before they accept the treatment.
4) Laws that force doctors to provide state-mandated, ideological scripts to their patients, require patients to undergo mandatory ultrasounds, or impose mandatory waiting periods on patients and providers serve no medically sound purpose.
5) Such laws are neither medically necessary nor do they improve patient care or information. Instead, they are intended to shame and demean women, and to coerce them into making a different decision.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to protect the health, safety and welfare of women by restoring informed consent to abortion care.
SECTION 3. RESTORING INFORMED CONSENT
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
(A) WOMEN MAY EXERCISE INFORMED CONSENT
In the interests of ensuring true informed consent, any patient seeking an abortion in this state may decide not to receive or review state-mandated informational materials, wait a particular state-mandated period of time before obtaining an abortion, or view an ultrasound image or listen to auscultation of the ultrasound, which would otherwise be required by [list appropriate statutes].
(B) DUTY OF HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
1) A health care provider shall document the patient’s decision in writing and that documentation shall be kept in the patient's file.
2) In the event a patient has exercised her right to waive certain requirements under this section, the patient’s health care provider shall not be subject to any criminal, civil or administrative penalties for failure to comply with [list appropriate statutes].
3) Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter the health care provider’s duty to obtain the informed consent required for all medical procedures pursuant to [insert appropriate statute].
SECTION 4. SEVERABILITY
The provisions of this Act shall be severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence or provision is declared to be invalid or is preempted by federal law or regulation, the validity of the remainder of this Act shall not be affected.
SECTION 5. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on XXXX 1, 2016.