A woman sued a Chicago clinic of Planned Parenthood for malpractice in 2006, two years after having an abortion, claiming she didn’t make the right decision because the clinic’s counselor didn’t properly inform her about what she was doing. An Illinois appellate court recently dismissed the lawsuit. Apparently, it’s the first case ruling like this in Illinois, but there have been others around the country.
According to a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, the woman asked a counselor at Planned Parenthood if she was terminating the life of a human being in a biological sense, and she was told that she was not. She claimed that the clinic owed her a duty to inform her that she was, in fact, terminating the life of a human being in the biological sense, and had the counselor done so, that she would not have had the abortion.
The lawsuit was based on the legal concept of informed consent, also known as “right to know” laws. The law basically says that without all relevant facts, there is not informed consent. Doctors, for example, have a duty to patients to give them all relevant facts before they can consent to something like a surgery for example.
So the appellate court ruled that the abortion clinic had no duty to tell the woman that she was ending the life of a human being in a biological sense. This isn’t really a surprise. If the court had said the woman needed to be told she was ending the life of a human being, then the court would be essentially concluding that an abortion does end the life of a human being which would be a prelude to overturning Roe v. Wade.
The question of when life begins is the subject of great debate. The court didn’t want to touch it, or create legal precedent on something even medical experts and scientists can’t agree on. And then there’s the fact that it also involves moral and philosophical views.
Aside from describing an interesting case, the article caught my attention because of the attorneys who were mentioned. One of the attorneys representing the woman plaintiff was from Chicago, but the other was New Jersey attorney Harold Cassidy. Why would a New Jersey attorney be on an Illinois medical malpractice case? Because he is a prominent pro-life attorney who has filed similar lawsuits in the past – lawsuits against clinics for performing abortions without informed consent. He has been involved in creating legislation requiring that a woman be told she is ending a human life before getting an abortion. He even helped draft a South Dakota law that tried to ban abortion altogether.
The New Jersey attorney’s presence in this case puts it in a different light. I’m not saying the plaintiff’s loss or suffering wasn’t legitimate, or that her regret wasn’t real. But is that what this lawsuit was really about? Or was it about trying to get the court to say that abortion kills a human being in order to advance the pro-life agenda? Maybe it's both, but my opinion is that it certainly was more to pursue an agenda than a case where the lawyer gave the client an expectation of a financial recovery at the end of it all.
For all of the ranting and raving the right wingers do about frivolous lawsuits, it appears to me that they brought one here, especially given that these lawsuit theories have not succeeded in the past. But sometimes that is what lawsuits are all about, pushing an agenda or at least hoping to. Given that this case got very limited media coverage (aside from my millions of readers), it was all likely a waste of time.
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