Court Strikes Down NC Abortion Ultrasound Law

Law required providers to show, describe image
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 22, 2014 9:27 PM CST
Updated Dec 23, 2014 12:15 AM CST
Court Strikes Down NC Abortion Ultrasound Law
Abortion rights demonstrators rally before heading into a hearing on abortion regulations for North Carolina in Raleigh last week.   (AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)

A North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to show and describe an ultrasound to the pregnant woman is "ideological in intent" and violates doctors' free-speech rights, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday. Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote that the law goes far beyond what most states have done to ensure that a woman gives informed consent to an abortion. "While the state itself may promote through various means childbirth over abortion, it may not coerce doctors into voicing that message on behalf of the state in the particular manner and setting attempted here," he wrote.

The North Carolina law would have required abortion providers to display and describe the ultrasound even if the woman refused to look and listen—a mandate that the court found particularly troublesome. Virginia, South Carolina, and West Virginia, which also are part of the 4th Circuit, have ultrasound laws that do not include the same speech requirement as the North Carolina statute and therefore do not appear to be affected by the ruling. North Carolina Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican and a primary sponsor of the 2011 law, said she strongly disagreed with the court's finding and stressed that other parts of the legislation are still in effect. (More North Carolina stories.)

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