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Pregnancy centers to defend ND law that ensures women are fully informed about abortion

ADF represents world’s largest pregnancy center network in opposition to AMA attack on informed consent statute

Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019
BISMARCK, N.D. – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the world’s largest affiliation of pregnancy resource centers filed their answer Tuesday following a federal district court’s decision to allow the centers to intervene in defense of a North Dakota informed-consent statute that the American Medical Association challenged in June. The AMA lawsuit opposes 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 quickly.

Heartbeat International, which has two affiliated pregnancy centers in North Dakota and operates the international Abortion Pill Rescue Network, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, which the court granted on Nov. 26. The Abortion Pill Reversal program comprises more than 600 health care professionals across the United States who are willing and able to administer an FDA-approved drug that has successfully stopped abortions after a mother requests intervention. 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,” said ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle. “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.”

“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.”

In opposing North Dakota’s law, the AMA misleadingly cites the Supreme Court’s decision last year in NIFLA v. Becerra, a ruling that affirmed that the government can’t force people to speak a message against their beliefs. As ADF attorneys who litigated the NIFLA case explain, 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.
“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.”
  • Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR’-lee), Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh), Stenehjem (STEN’-jem)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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Legal Documents

Intervenor-Defendant Heartbeat International’s Answer Brief: American Medical Association v. Stenehjem
Motion to Intervene: American Medical Association v. Stenehjem
Complaint: American Medical Association v. Stenehjem

Related Resources

ABOUT Denise Harle

Denise Harle serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Life. Prior to joining ADF, Harle served as deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Florida Attorney General, where she drafted appellate briefs and presented oral arguments on behalf of the state in a wide variety of constitutional cases, including defending the constitutionality of pro-life laws. In 2017, she participated in the prestigious Supreme Court Fellow program, sponsored by the National Association of Attorneys General. She clerked for Justice Ricky L. Polston on the Florida Supreme Court and worked for several years as an appellate litigator at a large firm in California. Harle earned bachelor’s degrees, summa cum laude, in psychology and interdisciplinary social science from Florida State University, a master’s degree in political science from Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. At Duke, she served as the executive editor of Law & Contemporary Problems. A member of the state bars of California, Florida, and Georgia, she is admitted to multiple federal district and appellate courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

ABOUT Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Life Team working to defend pro-life laws and speech and protect medical rights of conscience. He has litigated cases in the areas of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Theriot is admitted to the bar in eight states, the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous other federal courts of appeal and district courts. Theriot received his law degree from Vanderbilt University and has been litigating First Amendment issues since 1993.