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SCOTUS Declines To Review Ruling Deeming NC’s Ultrasound Law Unconstitutional

By Jesse Wood

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not review an appeals court decision nixing a 2011 law in North Carolina that required women to listen to a presentation of an ultrasound scan before going through with an abortion.

Following the announcement, the conservative N.C. Values Coalition said the decision of SCOTUS not to review the case made “no sense.”

“It makes no sense that federal courts would block a woman’s access to life-saving information, which results in over 70 percent of women changing their minds about abortion after seeing their unborn child on an ultrasound screen,” N.C. Values Coalition posted on its Facebook page. “In any other medical procedure doctors would have a duty to disclose all of the relevant information, and, yet, a procedure as destructive and life-changing as abortion is held to a lower standard.”

The liberal ACLU-NC applauded the result on Monday.

“North Carolinians should take comfort in knowing that this intrusive and unconstitutional law, which placed the ideological agenda of politicians above a doctor’s ability to provide a patient with the specific care she needs, will never go into effect,” said ACLU-NC Executive Director Sarah Preston. “We’re very glad the courts have recognized that politicians have no business interfering in personal medical decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.”

The ACLU-NC said that this law was “one of the most extreme ultrasound laws in the country” and while it allowed the woman to look away from the ultrasound images and “refuse to hear,” the medical practitioner was required to place the images in front of the women and describe them in detail.

This law went through the N.C. General Assembly in 2011 after the N.C. House and Senate overrode a veto by former Gov. Bev Perdue. The law, however, never went into effect because of lawsuits and court orders.

After the law passed, it was temporarily blocked after several state physicians and medical practices by the Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU, ACLU-NC Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood and the firm of O’Melveny & Myers filed a lawsuit.

In January 2014, a federal district court struck down the law as unconstitutional and months later, a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the law violated the free speech of medical practitioners.

On the SCOTUS Blog, Lyle Denniston wrote in a piece titled, A Gesture in Favor of a Woman’s Abortion Choice, that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t provide an explanation of its decision not to review the appeals court ruling, so it was unclear how the justices would have voted on the matter.

“But the order had the practical effect of leaving undisturbed a lower-court ruling striking down that law on the premise that it was ‘ideological in intent and in kind’ and thus not a valid form of state regulation of medical practice,” Denniston wrote.