- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A doctor has no duty to tell a woman considering an abortion that her embryo is an “existing human being,” a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday, averting a trial over when human life begins.

The decision, citing past rulings, said the court “will not place a duty on doctors when there is no consensus in the medical community or among the public” on when life begins.

The 5-0 Supreme Court ruling reversed a unanimous ruling by a three-judge appeals panel. Abortion cases pending in Illinois and South Dakota have raised the same issue.

“On the profound issue of when life begins, this court cannot drive public policy in one particular direction by the engine of the common law when the opposing sides, which represent so many of our citizens, are arrayed along a deep societal and philosophical divide,” New Jersey Justice Barry T. Albin wrote for the court.

The ruling was issued in a lawsuit filed by a woman who accused a doctor of failing to give her enough information before she signed a consent form for him to perform an abortion.

Rose Acuna questioned whether Dr. Sheldon C. Turkish misled her in 1996 about the development of the pregnancy, then in the sixth or seventh week.

She was 29 at the time and had two daughters following a miscarriage when she consulted Dr. Turkish, who had delivered her second child.

“According to Acuna, Turkish told her that she ‘needed an abortion because (y)our kidneys are messing you up,’ ” court papers said. “Acuna asked Turkish whether ‘the baby was already there.’ According to Acuna, Turkish replied, ‘Don’t be stupid, it’s only blood.’ ”

Mrs. Acuna signed a consent form, and Dr. Turkish did the abortion. Bleeding continued, however, and seven weeks later Acuna went to a hospital. She was diagnosed with an incomplete abortion and had another procedure.

“According to her, one of the nurses caring for her explained that the procedure was necessary because Turkish ‘had left parts of the baby inside of (her).’ Thus, Acuna concluded based on the reference to ‘the baby’ that she had given consent to an abortion based on erroneous information,” the appellate panel wrote last year.

Mrs. Acuna, now 40, says she suffered emotional distress for the death of an unborn child.

Mrs. Acuna’s attorney, Harold J. Cassidy, had no immediate comment. The doctor’s attorney, John Zen Jackson, did not return messages seeking comment.

In South Dakota, Planned Parenthood is challenging a 2005 law that requires abortion doctors to tell women several things, including that an abortion ends human life. It has never been enforced, however, having been put on hold by a federal judge. The lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is pending.

The American Civil Liberties Union said a class-action medical-malpractice lawsuit with similar claims as those raised by Mrs. Acuna was recently brought in Illinois.

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