ACLU Calls on New Jersey Supreme Court to Protect Reproductive Freedom and Free Speech

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
February 20, 2007 12:00 am

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Says Upholding Lower Court Decision Would Force Physicians to Impose Non-Medical, Moral Judgments on Patients Before Performing Abortions

TRENTON, NJ – The American Civil Liberties Union today called on the New Jersey Supreme Court to protect women’s reproductive rights and physicians’ free speech rights. The ACLU urged the court to overturn a lower court medical malpractice decision that would have the effect of improperly forcing physicians to give a non-medical, value-laden speech to their patients before performing an abortion.

“Forcing women to listen to non-medical, moral judgments from their doctors prior to an abortion violates both state and federal constitutions,” said Talcott Camp, a deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, who argued the ACLU’s position before the court today. “Doctors should not be compelled to act as an ideological mouthpiece when caring for their patients.”

In 1998, Rosa Acuna brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor in New Jersey, claiming that he had failed to properly inform her at the time of her abortion that the embryo was a “complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being” with whom she had “an existing relationship,” and his failure to do so caused her emotional distress.

According to court papers, Acuna, who had two children prior to her abortion, stated that at the time of her abortion she understood that she was pregnant and signed a form consenting to the procedure.

“This case is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to enact an extreme biased-counseling law – something our legislature and governor have refused to do,” said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

Today’s argument before the New Jersey Supreme Court focused on whether Acuna’s case should go to a jury trial.

The ACLU argued that an unfavorable decision in this case could extend far beyond abortion, including interfering with physicians prescribing certain birth control methods, pharmacists dispensing birth control pills and emergency contraception, and emergency room personnel treating sexual assault survivors.

Today’s case is Acuna v. Turkish (Docket No. 59, 525). Lawyers on the friend-of-the-court brief include Camp and Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Edward Barocas of the ACLU of New Jersey.

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