Abortion Ultrasound Law Violates First Amendment, Appeals Court Rules

Dec 22, 2014

A federal appeals court has struck down North Carolina’s law that says abortion providers must show pregnant women an ultrasound of their fetus.

The three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was unanimous: North Carolina’s law violates the First Amendment.

The ruling says the law is “quintessential compelled speech” that “forces physicians to say things they otherwise would not say.”

And the message the state wants doctors to convey is ideological, the ruling notes, since the purpose of the law is to convince women to change their minds about getting an abortion.

Lawmakers passed the ultrasound law, called the Woman’s Right To Know Act, in the summer of 2011 – even overriding a veto by then-Governor Bev Perdue. It says abortion providers must conduct an ultrasound, and must show women a sonogram of the fetus and describe details about it.

Women can look away or cover their ears.

The ruling says the law essentially forces doctors to serve as the state’s mouthpiece on abortion. As a result, that undermines trust that is necessary for a healthy doctor-patient relationship, the ruling says.

The fourth circuit’s ruling upholds a U.S. District Court decision. No word on whether it will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A spokesman for Senate Leader Phil Berger said he is reviewing the decision and legal options.