Case Name: Stuart et al. v. Camnitz
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, and the Center for Reproductive Rights successfully challenged North Carolina’s 2011 law that would have forced a woman to undergo a narrated ultrasound four hours before having an abortion, even if the woman objects. The case was filed on behalf of several North Carolina abortion providers.
Passed in 2011 by the General Assembly over the veto of then-Governor Bev Perdue, HB854 was one of the most extreme mandatory ultrasound laws in the country. While the law would have allowed the woman to “avert her eyes” from the ultrasound screen and to “refuse to hear” the explanation of the images, the provider would have still been required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail over her objection. The law would have applied even if a woman did not want to see the ultrasound, and it made no exception for rape, incest, serious health risks or severe fetal anomalies.
A federal district court blocked the law from going into effect in response to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others.
In December 2014, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed that the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians by forcing them to deliver politically motivated communications to a patient even over the patient’s objection, declaring that “transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes.”
North Carolina unsuccessfully appealed the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2015 declined to hear the case, preventing the intrusive law from ever going into effect.