North Carolina’s Abortion Ultrasound Law Nixed By Appeals Court

North Carolina's Abortion Ultrasound Law Nixed By Appeals Court

North Carolina’s abortion law, passed by the state’s governor over a veto on 2011, is one of the strictest in the country. A  forced ultrasound provision was just overturned, but other controversial measures remain. (Photo: Getty Images) 

A North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to not only conduct an ultrasound but describe its content in detail to women seeking an abortion — whether or not they have asked for or want to receive an ultrasound — was blocked on Monday, December 22, by the Fourth Circuit court of appeals. 

The law was preliminarily blocked in October 2011 and also deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in January 2014.

In its ruling, the Fourth Circuit determined that the law prohibits a physician’s right to free speech by mandating what conversations doctors are required to have with their patients, “while simultaneously threatening harm to the patient’s psychological health, interfering with the physician’s professional judgment, and compromising the doctor-patient relationship.”

Related: Should A Woman Ever Need A Man’s OK to Get An Abortion? 

The court also expressed that such a measure seeks to actively humiliate women who do not wish to see this ultrasound and hear their doctors discuss it by forcing her to close “her eyes and covering her ears while her physician — a person to whom she should be encouraged to listen —recites information to her.”

Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, commended the court’s decision, saying, “Today’s ruling marks another major victory for women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country:  it is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions about abortion. Abortion in America today is safe and no doctor should be forced to deliver government mandated information that has nothing to do with promoting women’s health. Politicians are not medical experts — but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of restricting access to safe, legal abortion.”

Adds Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): “This law is about trying to shame a woman out of having an abortion, pure and simple. Politics don’t belong in the exam room, and a doctor shouldn’t have to humiliate a woman because some politicians disagree with her decision.” 

The ruling by the Fourth Circuit upheld the remaining pieces of the law, however, that specify a 24-hour waiting period and state-mandating counseling before a woman may receive an abortion in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s abortion law, passed by the state’s governor over a veto on 2011, is one of the strictest in the country. 

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