Politics Reproductive Rights

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear North Carolina Forced Ultrasound Law

The Supreme Court refused to review a North Carolina mandatory ultrasound law this week, permanently blocking what many feel is the most extreme forced ultrasound law in the nation.

via  Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

The North Carolina law, which was passed in 2011, requires a physician perform an ultrasound on a patient seeking an abortion at least four house, and no more than 72 hours before the abortion. Also under the law, the physician must display imaging from the ultrasound and describe it to the patient, even if she objects, and even if she covers her eyes and ears, which the law permits.

This law was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 after several North Carolina physicians, medical practices, and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Untion (ALCU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a lawsuit. A federal court then struck down the law in 2014, when U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that the “speech-and-display” provision of the law violated the First Amendment, and acknowledging that the ultrasound law was designed to persuade women not to obtain abortions. In December of last year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld this decision.

The Fourth Circuit Court wrote that the law violates doctors’ First Amendment right, and threatens patient well-being, writing:

“[The patient] must endure the embarrassing spectacle of averting her eyes and covering her ears while her physician–a person to whom she should be encouraged to listen–recites information to her. We can perceive no benefit to state interests from walling off patients and physicians in a manner antithetical to the very communication that lies at the heart of the informed consent process.”

The Supreme Court gave no explanation for refusing to review the law, although Justice Anotonin Scalia dissented. He did not file an explanation on the grounds for his dissent.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court decided not to review the decision striking down this law. Doctors shouldn’t be forced to humiliate a woman and disregard their best medical judgment in order to provide an abortion,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project for the ACLU. “The purpose of this law was crystal clear: to shame a woman who has decided to have an abortion out of getting one.”

“Women are fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about their families, future, and health without interference from politicians who presume to know better. And all doctors must be free to give patients their best medical judgment, free from talking points dictated by lawmakers advancing an agenda,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Media Resources: RH Reality Check HB 854; 12/22/14; Reproductive Rights Press Release 10/25/11; 12/22/14; Feminist Newswire 1/21/14;

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