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AMA files lawsuit to block law forcing physicians to give scripted information regarding abortion

North Dakota and eight other states have passed laws requiring providers to tell patients about so-called medication-abortion reversal.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

The American Medical Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of two North Dakota laws that force physicians to give scripted information on alternatives to abortion.

One compels physicians to tell patients where they can find a provider to reverse a medication abortion, also known as the abortion pill.

This is contrary to science, the AMA said. It requires physicians to "provide patients with false, misleading, non-medical information about reproductive health."

HB 1336 passed in North Dakota earlier this year and is scheduled to take effect on August 1.  The AMA wants the court to block H.B. 1336 before it takes effect.

An existing North Dakota law forces physicians to tell patients that abortion terminates "the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

"This is a controversial, ideological, and non-medical message – and unconstitutionally forces physicians to act as the mouthpiece of the state," the AMA said.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in North Dakota, asks the court to block enforcement of the state's compelled speech laws.

Eight other states -- Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Utah -- have passed similar laws requiring abortion providers to tell patients about so-called medication-abortion reversal. Five of these states passed the legislation in the past year.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of the AMA and in partnership with the Red River Women's Clinic, the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, and its medical director, Dr. Kathryn Eggleston.

IMPACT

This is about First Amendment rights and the patient-provider relationship, the AMA said.

THE LARGER TREND

In February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a final rule banning Planned Parenthood, and other programs that get Title X federal funding, from offering abortion counseling and referral.
The American Medical Association at the time called the rule a "clear violation of patients' rights in the Code of Medical Ethics."

Planned Parenthood and 21 state attorneys general filed lawsuits, but earlier this month, a federal appeals court upheld the rule. This makes Planned Parenthood, and any clinics where abortion and counseling is offered, ineligible to receive Title X funds.

California, Oregon and Washington recently won preliminary injunctions from lower courts temporarily blocking the rule from going into effect, according to The Washington Post.

The lower court battles are setting up a showdown in the Supreme Court over abortion restrictions and the potential, eventual consideration of 1973's Roe v Wade guaranteeing abortion rights.

ON THE RECORD

"The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of healthcare, and depends upon honest, open conversations about all of a patient's healthcare options," said AMA President Dr. Patrice A. Harris. "North Dakota's law undermines this relationship by requiring physicians to mislead and misinform their patients with messages that contradict reality and science."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com