GREENSBORO, NC – A federal district judge today struck down a North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to show a woman an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before having an abortion, even if the woman objects.
The court ruled that key provisions of the law violate doctors’ free speech rights. The law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Today's court ruling protects the rights of women and their doctors from the ideological agenda of extremist lawmakers,” said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “If these unconstitutional measures had gone into effect, doctors would have been prevented from using their best medical judgment to provide patients with care based on their specific individual needs. This law represented an egregious government intrusion into individuals’ private medical decisions, and we are very pleased that it will not go into effect.”
The law would have required abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and place the image in the woman’s line of sight. The provider would then be required to describe the embryo or fetus in detail, even if the woman asked the doctor not to, and to offer the woman the opportunity to hear the “fetal heart tone.”
“The state should not be using women’s bodies as political pawns,” said Andrew Beck, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “As a result of the court’s decision, doctors will be able to continue to give their patients the kind of conscientious medical care they deserve.”
While the law would have allowed the woman to avert her eyes and to “refuse to hear,” the provider would still have been required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail, even as she was trying not to see the images or hear the description. The measure would make no exceptions for women under any circumstances, including cases of rape, incest, or those who receive a tragic diagnosis during pregnancy.