Under the Dome

Supreme Court asked to hear abortion ultrasound case

North Carolina on Monday petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling that the state’s narrated ultrasound requirement for abortions is unconstitutional.

The expected petition by Attorney General Roy Cooper and the state’s solicitor general, John F. Maddrey, asks the high court to take up December’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that provision in state law.

The appellate court found that the 2011 state law was “ideological” and a violation of free-speech rights that went “well beyond” what other states have tried to do by compelling medical doctors and nurses to deliver a political message to their patients.

It would have required women seeking abortions to have a medical provider describe and display an ultrasound exam near the time of the procedure, even if a woman objects. She could avert her eyes and refuse to hear the description.

Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the bill, but the new Republican majority in the General Assembly overrode her veto and the legislation became law.

A federal district court judge blocked the law from going into effect and then the three-judge panel in January 2014 struck it down. The Supreme Court has previously refused to review a similar law from Oklahoma after that state’s highest court found it unconstitutional.

Other provisions of the North Carolina law were not legally challenged and remain in place.

At the time of the appeals court ruling, Cooper said he opposed the ultrasound provision but had a duty to defend it in court. Cooper is a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2016.

“The only purpose for this invasive and unconstitutional law is to shame and demean women who have made the very personal, private decision to end a pregnancy,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the First Amendment and ensure doctors are never forced to serve as mouthpieces for politicians.”

The Center was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the North Carolina ACLU Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Family Values Coalition, had this to say:

“Before a woman decides to have an abortion, she should be given all the facts, including the right to view her unborn baby through an ultrasound and hear the doctor’s description of the baby’s image. That is just sound medical practice, and doctors do it every day in preparation for other types of surgery.

"Abortion doctors routinely do an ultrasound before every abortion, but they deny women the opportunity to see their unborn babies on the ultrasound screen or to hear what the doctor sees, because they know that this information will change their minds. Women deserve the right to see their babies, and it was the right decision for the State to appeal this atrocious decision.”