TRENTON, New Jersey - February 20 - 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
“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
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
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
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.