Constitutionality of Ultrasound Laws May Be Decided By Supreme Court

The constitutionality of state laws that require women to obtain an ultrasound prior to an abortion may soon be in the hands of the United States Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the case of  Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services et al. v. Lakey et al. must file an appeal with the Supreme Court this month if they wish to contest a recent federal appeals court ruling that upheld a Texas law as being a reasonable prerequisite to an abortion. The law had previously been struck down by a District Court as being unconstitutional.

Since a number of courts across the nation have disagreed on the issue, and considering that it is a topic of national importance, it is possible that the Supreme Court will accept the case.

In October of 2011, a federal court blocked the enforcement of an ultrasound law in North Carolina, which required that doctors explain the “presence, location and dimensions of the unborn child” and well as his or her “external members and internal organs.” The court opined that the legislation violated the free speech rights of abortionists and forced women to hear information that they did not wish to receive.

Similarly, in March of this year, an appeals court in Oklahoma placed a restraining order on the state’s ultrasound law, deeming it as unconstitutional. The state legislature had passed the law in April 2010, after overriding a veto from Governor Brad Henry.

There are seven states that currently mandate ultrasounds before abortions. Eleven other states presently have legislation in the works, including Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. The state of Virginia has also been considering mandatory ultrasounds for abortion-minded women; however, Governor Bob McDonnell was quoted as stating earlier this year to the Washington Post, “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. … No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state without their consent as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

The 5th Circuit declared differently in Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services et al. v. Lakey et al., stating  that “disclosures of a sonogram . . . and [its] medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleadling information.” Therefore, the mandate in the state of Texas currently stands unless overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

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