Iowa GOP Encourages Women To Sue Doctors Over "Abortion Regret"

Iowa GOP Encourages Women To Sue Doctors Over "Abortion Regret"

In the upside-down world of Republican anti-abortion extremists, accepted medical standards constitute malpractice while lying to patients does not. That's inescapable conclusion from the latest torrent of draconian abortion restrictions now pouring out of GOP-controlled state legislatures. While Kansas has banned lawsuits by parents against physicians who refused to inform them of catastrophic fetal disorders, a new Iowa bill would allow women to sue their doctors for having performed a legal abortion at all.

As Slate put it, this latest gambit by Hawkeye State Republicans would make so-called "abortion regret" grounds for civil action against providers. Just days after the lower house passed House File 2175 banning the common "practice of doctors prescribing abortion-inducing drugs from remote locations, typically using a video link," HF 2098 sponsored by Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Melcher-Dallas) would invite patients to sue their doctors for performing legal abortion procedures they themselves requested. RHRealityCheck explained how:

Under the legislation, a patient could sue a doctor within ten years of terminating a pregnancy, even after signing a form acknowledging informed consent. In addition to suing for physical injury, a patient could sue for emotional distress, which would include a negative emotional or mental reaction, grief, anxiety, or worry.

The bill significantly increases the risk doctors face in providing abortion care in a couple of important ways. First and foremost, it creates an entirely separate legal claim related only to abortions, despite the fact that any patient injured during an abortion can already sue for medical malpractice. Second, it increases to at least ten years the amount of time a patient has to sue, and allows a claim to proceed even if a patient acknowledges that the risks associated with the procedure were explained.

So why would the Republican Party that decries "frivolous lawsuits" and "jackpot justice" encourage a wave of baseless litigation? It can't be for actual malpractice, which the National Institutes of Health defines as "any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient." The GOP also cannot be motivated by a concern over so-called "post-abortion syndrome," which a growing mountain of studies has thoroughly debunked. (While some number of patients may later come to regret having had an abortion (or any other medical procedure for that matter), any stress from that subsequent emotional conflict is generally not the basis for successful legal action.) Instead, Republicans in states like Ohio, South Dakota and now Iowa simply want to create what Latrice Lacey of the ACLU called a "backdoor abortion ban." As Teddy Wilson and Jessica Mason Pieklo explained at RHRealityCheck:


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The bill significantly increases the risk doctors face in providing abortion care in a couple of important ways. First and foremost, it creates an entirely separate legal claim related only to abortions, despite the fact that any patient injured during an abortion can already sue for medical malpractice. Second, it increases to at least ten years the amount of time a patient has to sue, and allows a claim to proceed even if a patient acknowledges that the risks associated with the procedure were explained.

Bills like HF 2098 are designed to make the legal landscape too risky for doctors to do their job by increasing their potential exposure to frivolous lawsuits and the expense of defending each one. Each increase in risk for the provider means an increase in the cost of doing business, including the cost of carrying malpractice insurance.

It's no wonder, as President George W. Bush memorably put it in 2004:

"We need to do something about these frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of your health care and running good docs out of business. We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country. See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-hospital and pro- trial lawyer at the same time."

As Republicans in Iowa and elsewhere are once again showing, you can't be pro-life and pro-women's health--and pro-truth--at the same time.

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