First Trimester Abortion Discussed by Jury

Nov 30, 2002 09:05 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- A New Jersey Appellate Court, for the first time in history, will allow a jury to decide whether or not a first trimester abortion takes away a human life. This case, a huge step forward for pro-life advocates, overrides the 'Roe vs. Wade' contention that prohibited the court from recognizing the aborted babies as living humans.

Harold Cassidy, the attorney who won the appeal, considers the ruling a "great victory for the rights of pregnant women.¡±

"This (gives) back the right of women to litigate their own rights in regard to abortions. In the past, the right was taken from women by the American Civil Liberties Union and the abortion industry, such as Planned Parenthood. They contented they represented women in any lawsuit against abortion providers, when in fact, their interest is with the providers,"Cassidy said.

The case began when the plaintiff, Rosa Acuna, went to the doctor with stomach pains to discover that she was pregnant. Because of kidney ailments, the mother of two was advised to have an abortion. Her gynecologist Sheldon Turkish, however, never informed her that aborting a baby was ending a human life.

Cassidy asserts that Turkish is obligated to inform his patients that a life is terminated in abortion, therefore, the abortion performed on Acuna in April 1996 was done without her informed consent.

Acuna, 35, said that when she asked the doctor was asked whether or not the baby was already there, Turkish replied that there was "nothing but some blood." When questioned, Turkish did not deny his telling pregnant mothers that there is "nothing but some tissue."

If Acuna wins the trial scheduled for May 5, every New Jersey doctor would be required to inform their patients that abortions terminate human lives. Cassidy expects, should Acuna win, that the state will file an appeal with the New Jersey Supreme court. Depending on the outcome, Cassidy believes the Supreme Court could hear the case as quickly as two years from now.

"What is being litigated here is whether or not the unborn human being has the same value and legal status as other human beings," Cassidy said.

"By not telling Mrs. Acuna that he would be terminating a life, the doctor inserted his own personal and philosophical view for the facts and took the decision to have an abortion away from her," Cassidy said.

Acuna seeks to file a wrongful death lawsuit against her doctor for the death of her 7-week-old unborn child. If she wins the case, she will be reimbursed for her emotional distress, namely, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosexual dysfunction.

New Jersey is one of the 10 states that does not allow wrongful death lawsuits to be filed when a doctor's malpractice results in the death of an unborn child. The state, as do all other states, had always prohibited a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed by a woman who had performed abortion by her own choice.

Cassidy, known as an advocate of pregnant mothers' rights, first received national attention when he succeeded in litigating the "Baby M"case, which declared surrogate parenting contracts unenforceable. Before he became a layer, he studied at Maryknoll Seminary for a year to become a Catholic priest.

Pro-abortion advocates believe the lawsuit is pursued merely to scare away doctors from performing abortions.

By Pauline J.
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