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NEJM Editorial Criticizes South Dakota 'Script' Law

Authors say law mandating abortion discussions is unconstitutional and should be overturned

THURSDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A South Dakota law that mandates a specific discussion between physicians and women seeking abortions is a violation of the First Amendment and should be overturned, according to an editorial published online Nov. 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gregory D. Curfman, M.D., and colleagues applauded the recent defeat of initiatives in Colorado, California and South Dakota aimed at curtailing reproductive rights. But they take issue with an existing South Dakota law -- formally known as "the informed consent to abortion law" -- which has been criticized by its opponents as a "script" law.

The authors object to provisions requiring physicians to either tell a woman that she would be terminating the life of a "whole, separate, unique, living human being" and discuss controversial abortion risks such as depression and suicide, or face criminal misdemeanor charges and possible loss of their medical licenses.

"Irrespective of one's views on abortion, the speech mandated by the South Dakota law is extraordinary and unprecedented," the authors write. "To preserve the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, which is fundamental to the practice of medicine, this law should be summarily overturned."

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