Attorneys representing Heartbeat International filed their answer Tuesday following a federal district court’s decision to allow the international affiliation of pregnancy help centers to intervene in defense of a North Dakota informed-consent statute that the American Medical Association (AMA) challenged in June.
The AMA sued in opposition to the state’s efforts to fully inform women considering abortion that it terminates the life of a “separate, unique, living human being,” and that the chemical abortion process may be reversible if treated promptly.
Attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of Heartbeat International, a global network of more than 2,700 pregnancy help organizations, two of which are affiliated pregnancy centers in North Dakota. The court had granted the motion November 26.
Heartbeat operates the international Abortion Pill Rescue Network, which consists of more than 600 health care professionals across North America who are willing and able to administer an FDA-approved drug that has successfully stopped abortions after a mother requests intervention. In addition to the 600-plus health care practitioners, some 300 pregnancy help organizations in the APRN network also assist women who choose to try and save their baby by initiating the Abortion Pill Reversal process.
Heartbeat’s work would be affected by the lawsuit’s outcome, and its research is already at issue in the litigation.
“Every woman deserves to know the whole truth about abortion, and that includes the facts about her child and the choices she can make every step of the way,” ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle said in a statement. “The American Medical Association, which ought to support providing patients with as much information as possible, instead wants to keep vulnerable women in the dark about vital information about fetal development and their pregnancy options prior to an abortion. Women deserve to know the truth.”
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“It is an established scientific fact that the life of every human being—with his or her own unique DNA and all other building blocks of life—starts at the moment of conception,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot, vice president of the ADF Center for Life. “It is North Dakota’s prerogative if it wishes to ensure that women know about that as well as about the existence of promising medical procedures available to her if she chooses to reverse the chemical abortion process. A woman who is informed about the many dangerous risks of abortion, the reality of what the abortion will do to her child and to herself, and her options as a parent is far more likely to make a wise decision concerning her health and her child’s life.”
The abortion pill, also known as medication abortion, chemical abortion, RU-486 or self-managed abortion, is usually used to reference the medications mifepristone and misoprostol, taken to terminate the pregnancy of a developing baby within the first 10 weeks. Currently approximately 40% of all abortions in the U.S. occur through the abortion pill.
The first pill, mifepristone, blocks the effects of progesterone — the natural hormone that women produce that provides the essential nutrients needed for the developing baby to thrive. The second drug in the chemical abortion process, misoprostol, is taken 6-48 hours later, typically at home, and causes cramping and bleeding associated with emptying the uterus and delivering the deceased child.
A chemical abortion can be reversed after taking mifepristone and before misoprostol.
Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) works by giving a woman extra progesterone up to 72 hours after she takes the first chemical abortion drug. The treatment has the best chance for success when begun within 24 hours. APR is also a new application of an FDA-approved progesterone treatment used beginning in the 1950s to stop miscarriages. To date, more than 900 lives have been saved through the reversal protocol.
The state of North Dakota had formally supported Heartbeat's motion to intervene in American Medical Association v. Stenehjem, along with a similar motion from another group made up of two North Dakota pregnancy centers, 115 doctors and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
In opposing North Dakota’s law, the AMA misleadingly cites the Supreme Court’s decision last year in NIFLA v. Becerra, ADF said in its statement. The NIFLA v. Becerra ruling had affirmed that the government cannot force people to speak a message against their beliefs.
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As explained by ADF attorneys who litigated the NIFLA case, North Dakota’s law deals with informed consent prior to a medical procedure with serious consequences, not unconstitutional compelled speech.
The Supreme Court in NIFLA reaffirmed that such accurate, relevant information is lawfully part of informed consent to abortion, ADF said in it statement.
“The NIFLA decision guarantees that Heartbeat and its members cannot be forced to speak a message unrelated to the medical services they provide; at the same time, it ensures that women undergoing abortion (or any other medical procedure) will be protected by longstanding canons of medical ethics requiring that they be told about the risks, alternatives, and consequences of the procedure,” the motion to intervene filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota, Western Division, in American Medical Association v. Stenehjem explains. “This Court’s proper consideration of NIFLA is necessary to safeguard the pregnant women who will be hearing the Human Being Disclosure and APR Disclosure before consenting to a life-altering medical procedure—women who may soon be contacting Heartbeat for information, medical treatment, or support.”
Christa Brown, Heartbeat International's Director of Medical Impact, concurred with the fact that women have a right to be fully informed about abortion.
"Women deserve to know the truth," she said. "They don't give up that right when they seek an abortion."
"Denying women the truth denies them real choice," said Brown.
Editor's note: Pregnancy Help News is a project of Heartbeat International.