A federal district court permanently blocked a 2011 North Carolina law that required abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient, even if the woman objected.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that the “speech-and-display” provision of the law violated the First Amendment. State lawmakers had acknowledged that the ultrasound law was designed to persuade women not to obtain abortions. “Requiring a physician or other health care provider to deliver the state’s content-based, non-medical message in his or her own voice as if the message was his or her own constitutes compelled ideological speech and warrants the highest degree of First Amendment protection,” wrote Judge Eagles.
“The court’s ruling makes clear that politicians cannot use physicians as mouthpieces for their political agenda, and reaffirms the constitutional right of ever woman to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights which brought the challenge along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and Planned Parenthood on behalf of several North Carolina physicians.
North Carolina may appeal the district court’s decision. Mandatory ultrasounds have been challenged in Texas and Oklahoma with mixed results. In July 2013, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed into law several other extreme anti-abortion measures which require abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers, eliminate abortion coverage under state employee insurance plans, ban sex-selective abortions, and allow health care providers to refuse to participate in abortion-related care.
Media Resources: Center for Reproductive Rights Press Release 1/17/14; Feminist News 7/30/13, 11/13/13, 2/16/12