The Cruelty of Informed Consent

July 13th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  13 Comments

From Aaron Gouveia, a reporter in Cape Cod who writes the blog DaddyFiles, comes a post that in just a few hundred brutal words offers the best argument I’ve read against those anti-abortion “informed consent” laws that require women to sit through gruesome explanations of what is about to happen to themselves and to the fetus.

There are personal stakes for him; as he wrote a couple weeks ago, four months into their pregnancy, he and his wife got the news that their unborn child–they have  a young son already–had serious health problems. The fetus cannot survive. So here they are, four months in, needing to terminate the pregnancy. As Aaron wrote yesterday:

Do you know that it’s law in this state to describe any potential medical procedures in detail so the patient is properly versed? The rational part of my brain understands that. You want people to know what they’re getting into. And doctors need to cover their own butts. I get it.

But perhaps, just maybe, when a woman is wailing and begging you not to describe the intricacies involving the removal of her unborn baby from her already swollen belly, you could listen. And abide. Believe me, I read through it all. Every word. And no mother (or father for that matter) should ever have to hear such things.

He also hinted that he and his wife had to navigate anti-abortion protesters to even get into the clinic, and promised to write more about that later.

My heart goes out to Aaron and his wife: his post was mainly about how helpless he feels because he cannot even be in the room with her during the procedure. The impulse he has–the impulse to protect his family and absorb life’s punishment so they don’t have to–is fatherhood at its best.

Of course, Aaron’s post is about a personal pain; it’s not a political event. But his courage in explaining the whole dismal situation is sorely needed. Because more and more states are electing to probe and rut into the emotional lives of adults because they think it serves their religion. Informed consent may be a medically sound practice, but it has been hijacked by abortion foes and in many places includes unproven assertions on things like fetal pain. If you want a deeper look at the practice, the Guttmacher Policy Review has a strong report linking informed-consent laws to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s attempts to limit the use of abortion in this country.

For a sobering example of what this “consent” looks like, check out what’s required by statute in South Dakota, which compels abortion patients to first sit through a torrent of prejudicial information, as if they were Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange in need of aversion therapy, and not conscientious and most likely grieving human beings. What South Dakota doctors are required to tell the woman,according to state law:

(a) The name of the physician who will perform the abortion

(b) That the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being;

(c) That the pregnant woman has an existing relationship with that unborn human being and that the relationship enjoys protection under the United States Constitution and under the laws of South Dakota;

(d) That by having an abortion, her existing relationship and her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated;

(e) A description of all known medical risks of the procedure and statistically significant risk factors to which the pregnant woman would be subjected, including:

(i) Depression and related psychological distress;

(ii) Increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide;

(iii) A statement setting forth an accurate rate of deaths due to abortions, including all deaths in which the abortion procedure was a substantial contributing factor

(iv) All other known medical risks to the physical health of the woman, including the risk of infection, hemorrhage, danger to subsequent pregnancies, and infertility

(f) The probable gestational age of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed, and a scientifically accurate statement describing the development of the unborn child at that age; and

(g) The statistically significant medical risks associated with carrying her child to term compared to undergoing an induced abortion.

These types of laws weren’t aimed at married families like Aaron’s who really have no choice about the procedure. They were aimed at reckless teenagers and welfare queens and whatever other bogeymen the fundamentalists could imagine. But this is what happens when you start legislating your morality. At best, you end up sermonizing to the wrong people. At worst, you bully them into making the decision you want them to make.

Or, God forbid, you take away that choice entirely.


  1. SAHM says:

    July 13th, 2010at 12:24 pm(#)

    You would think they would put some kind of provision in the law for those who are in the same situation as stated above. They are not having abortions for selfish reasons…there is a legitimate medical reason for it.

    But, who ever claimed politicians were logical people?

  2. cathi says:

    July 13th, 2010at 12:42 pm(#)

    Although I am sorry for what Aaron and his wife are going thru, there IS another option. Have the baby. Don’t jeopardise the wife’s future childbearing health by killing the baby now. 5 more months of pregnancy will come to an end, naturally, they can birth the baby, and then grieve. This is how it used to be, no one can tell with certainty whether the tests were wrong, as well. It would keep the mother’s physical body intact.

  3. Nathan says:

    July 13th, 2010at 12:45 pm(#)

    Carry a deceased child around with you for five months? Really?

  4. JP says:

    July 13th, 2010at 12:58 pm(#)

    This is why nothing that makes sense about issues like this will ever be passed or put in place. Full disclosure – I’m pro-life. Additionally, I can understand there are scenarios like the one above for which I would make the same decision as the cited couple. But middle ground thinking and stances don’t get you elected. So the pendulum swings, back and forth, and the best thing for the people never really gets done. There is a baby’s life that often gets overlooked as not having a decision in the matter but, in cases like these, there’s an already grieving mother and father’s life to consider as well. Until we can set aside the 1% of cases on the extremes of issues from the arguement, we won’t be able to compromise and find what’s probably best for the other 99%.

  5. Daddy Files says:

    July 13th, 2010at 1:10 pm(#)


    Thank you for telling me about my options. Now I have an option for you. Why don’t you try reading up on the provided links before offering your uninformed and ridiculous opinion.

    For the record, my unborn baby suffered from Sirenomelia, aka Mermaid Syndrome. In short, his/her legs are fused together. If that were the extent of it, believe me, my wife and I would have forged on. But the baby has no kidneys. And no bladder. The list of missing/deficient body parts goes on, but those are the biggies.

    We’ve been to one of the best hospitals in the world. They told us there is no hope for this baby. It is fetal demise. And last week we found nature had nearly run it’s course, as there was almost no more amniotic fluid left and the baby was nearly dead.

    So our choices were have a D&E or deliver a stillborn child naturally. My wife and I decided it is far more traumatizing to carry around a dead baby and then deliver it, so we chose termination (if you can even call it that, it was pretty much terminated already).

    The fact that you think my wife should carry around a dead baby inside of her for absolutely no reason other than to avoid the word “abortion” is disgusting.

  6. Nathan says:

    July 13th, 2010at 1:36 pm(#)

    You tell ’em, Aaron. And thank you again for sharing your story. Good luck to you and MJ through this.

  7. Chris (@tessasdad) says:

    July 13th, 2010at 2:46 pm(#)

    I’ve been following Aaron’s story and it’s just such a horribly sad and devastating situation to be in. I can’t believe Aaron and MJ had to walk through a crowd of protestors to get this procedure done. What I’d like to know about the pro-life protestors? Are they truly pro-life or only when it comes to a fetus? I’m so sick of these pro-life folks who are all gun-ho about war in Afghanistan, the death penalty and such, but want to get all moralistic on you when it comes to abortion. Such bullshit.

  8. Daddy Files says:

    July 13th, 2010at 3:35 pm(#)

    Sorry Nathan,

    I came on here with the intention of saying thank you for mentioning our story. But then I saw Cathi’s comment and blew a gasket.

    So thank you. It means a lot that you’d mention it here. Also, thank you for getting into the political portions of it because I, well, can’t. For work reasons, which is a whole other saga in and of itself. But I do think it’s an important issue and I’m glad you addressed it.

  9. me says:

    July 13th, 2010at 4:58 pm(#)

    cathi: Wow. Just…wow. What a terribly uninformed, ignorant person you are. I could go on and on, but Aaron handled it so well. Suffice to say that even at the most basic level, do you really think the long-term impact to a woman’s psychological well-being wouldn’t impact her future child bearing ability?

  10. Nathan says:

    July 13th, 2010at 5:09 pm(#)

    Aaron, I know what you’re talking about with the whole avoiding having opinions political topics. One of the joys of freelancing is to be past all that, a little bit. The dubious necessity of forced objectivity for reporters is probably a topic for another time…

  11. Sid says:

    July 14th, 2010at 7:28 pm(#)

    Aaron, you have my heartfelt sympathies about having to make a decision that no one should ever have to make. A decision without a single “good” choice. It makes me sick to see the empowering concept intended to have been embodied by the doctrine of informed consent turned into a weapon with which to beat people. Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve heard of this type of approach being taken.

    Recently I learned that a hospital in Alberta has established a policy requiring all new parents be informed that studies have shown that feeding formula to infants causes gastric bleeding. Rather than offering better breastfeeding support, etc. for new parents, they’re making them feel like abusive failures from the start. How exactly this is supposed to empower people is beyond me.

    It enrages me to no end that people would turn informed consent into a mockery of its original purpose.

  12. Jill says:

    July 16th, 2010at 7:37 pm(#)

    What the hell is wrong with people?

    Aaron, from a stranger far away, I wish you and your family strength and peace. I’m sure I can’t begin to imagine your pain. Thank you for sharing your story; maybe someday our idiot politicians will get it right…


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