Iowa Bill Would Allow Women to Sue Physicians If They Regret Their Abortion


A bill passed by an Iowa house subcommittee Thursday would create a new “cause of action” against abortion doctors—a legal justification to sue them. HF 2098, which was sponsored by Rep. Greg Heartsill (R-Melcher-Dallas), would allow a woman to sue a physician to “recover damages for any physical injury or emotional distress” that results from the “physician’s negligence or failure to obtain informed consent.”

Under the legislation, a patient could sue a doctor within ten years of terminating a pregnancy, even after signing a form acknowledging informed consent. In addition to suing for physical injury, a patient could sue for emotional distress, which would include a negative emotional or mental reaction, grief, anxiety, or worry.

The bill significantly increases the risk doctors face in providing abortion care in a couple of important ways. First and foremost, it creates an entirely separate legal claim related only to abortions, despite the fact that any patient injured during an abortion can already sue for medical malpractice. Second, it increases to at least ten years the amount of time a patient has to sue, and allows a claim to proceed even if a patient acknowledges that the risks associated with the procedure were explained.

Bills like HF 2098 are designed to make the legal landscape too risky for doctors to do their job by increasing their potential exposure to frivolous lawsuits and the expense of defending each one. Each increase in risk for the provider means an increase in the cost of doing business, including the cost of carrying malpractice insurance.

By carving out a separate and distinct claim for emotional distress damages related only to abortion, the Iowa legislature is also attempting to codify “abortion regret” as a legitimate legal claim.

According to the Sioux City Journal, proponents of the legislation gave testimony during which they suggested that abortion may lead to “trauma” and shame.

Several organizations testified in opposition of the bill, citing the “chilling effect” it would have on physicians, among them the Iowa Medical Society, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Family Planning Council of Iowa, the Iowa Independent Physician Group, the Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland policy analyst and lobbyist Erin Davison-Rippey told RH Reality Check that the bill unfairly singles out one specific medical procedure, sets a disproportionately long statute of limitations, and is redundant. “It is yet another attempt to intimidate providers of a safe and legal procedure,” she said.

To be considered for a floor vote, the bill must be approved by the full House Judiciary Committee before the February 21 deadline. However, like the state’s telemedicine abortion ban, this bill appears to have little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled senate.

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  • Ramanusia

    Who may they sue if they suffer physical injury from their pregnancy or regret it?

    • JamieHaman

      Crazy huh? I begin to think that every woman should start with class action lawsuits against State Houses, Legislatures, and Governors who pass this type of bill, claiming that these groups are practicing Medicine without a License.

      • HeilMary1

        How about filling out criminal complaints at local police stations?

        • JamieHaman

          It’s a start. It’s time to take the initiative here and stop this endless chiseling away of abortion rights. It has to be the most legislated legal medical procedure in the country, and most of the legislation is just a huge waste of money, on both sides.
          cjvj has a good point, maybe it’s time for women with kids to start suing doctors for failing to advise an abortion based on future trauma and expenses.
          Maybe women should sue even if the doctor does advise an abortion, with the same minimum 10 year limit.

    • HeilMary1

      The RCC and their posse of protesters.

      • lady_black

        Ah if only it were true. That criminal organization has acted with impunity for far too long, and it’s high time they were put in their place.

  • Mirable

    A new bill is being proposed in s. Dakota to make it illegal to ” dismember an unborn baby”. Which will essentially outlaw abortions past the first trimester.

    • lady_black

      Unconstitutional.

      • Mirable

        I have been reading your chat with PJ4 over on LAN…

        Anyways…tell me if I am correct here, that PJ4 is REALLY this dumb, and that she took me seriously:

        http://blog.secularprolife.org/2014/02/to-me-it-was-not-act-of-murder.html#comment-1252853011

        lololol

        • lady_black

          “Addictive” hormones? LOL. That’s certainly a fresh perspective on endocrinology. By the way, endocrinology wasn’t my strong suit in nursing school, but I still managed to pull an A average. But the side effects of ebbing and flowing hormones that result from pregnancy, birth and senescence are not a factor of hormones being “addictive.” Anyone who speaks in such terms is lacking in fundamental understanding of biochemistry.

          • Mirable

            IIC’s arguments need a bit of work, but he still does a good job of confounding the anti-choicers.

        • BJ Survivor

          I don’t know how you have the patience to engage with those jackasses. “Secular Pro-Life” adherents are anything but secular. They keep trying, and abysmally failing, at putting a secular spin on misogynistic religious mumbo-jumbo. What a bunch of fucking wankers.

  • JamieHaman

    This type of would be law passing is just such a pisser. These idiots who try to pass this BS, waste taxpayer time and money.
    Time for a new Iowa House.

  • cjvg

    So can I sue the doctor if I later regret having kids and the doctor did not counsel me on choosing an abortion ?

    Pregnancy and childbirth can lead to trauma, irreparable (bodily) harm, death, post partum psychosis, job loss/poverty, insurmountable stress having to parent teenagers, divorce, lack of privacy etc.

    If no, why not?!

  • lady_black

    Of course this is unconstitutional. In anyone’s life, there may be a long list of regrets. Marrying the wrong person. Taking the wrong job. Plastic surgery. Giving birth or not giving birth. Befriending a toxic person. Drinking too much and making an ass of oneself. These are not causes of action for lawsuits against government authorities, parents, children, doctors or employers. These are simply wrong choices, but legitimately made decisions that everyone has a “God-given” right to make. It would be unlawful to hold a third party responsible for decisions one made, and later came to regret.

  • JeffreyRO55

    People should be able to sue for living in states like Iowa! Ugh, no one deserves that.

  • Kepler93

    Have to love the subtext here, that women aren’t capable of accepting responsibility for their own choices.

  • mthomas68

    GOP is the party of ‘tort reform’ where they want limited litigation against doctors that do shoddy work causing serious illness and/or death. Remember tort reform was one their answers to ACA back in 2009.

    Now they want women to sue doctors if they have physical or emotional trauma. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this GOP legislation….I agree with other commentators the we, women & men, need to sue each one of these states (mine (NC) included that is and have tampered with roe v wade.

    I read some where that this GOP wants to go back to the 18th century, just eliminate public policy laws of the 19th, 20th, 21st centuries. There would be no Civil War, no New Deal or Great Society Medicare Medicaid civil rights voting rights, no federal reserve, no railroads airplanes cars trucks. If we didn’t have it by 1799 we don’t need it.

    • ldwendy

      ” I read some where that this GOP wants to go back to the 18th century,
      just eliminate public policy laws of the 19th, 20th, 21st centuries.”

      Citation please. Thanks.

  • JohnBull

    I thought these people hated lawyers and loved personal responsibility.