U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate Oklahoma Law Requiring Ultrasound Prior to Abortion

ultrasoundWASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a case involving Oklahoma’s ultrasound law, allowing a lower court ruling to stand on the matter.

As previously reported, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled last December that the law, which mandated that abortionists perform an ultrasound while describing the view of the unborn baby in detail an hour before ending the child’s life, was unconstitutional. It pointed to the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which outlined that state laws cannot inhibit a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.

“Because the United States Supreme Court has previously determined the dispositive issue presented in this manner, this court is not free to impose its own view of the law,” the justices wrote. “The Oklahoma Constitution reaffirms the effect of the supremacy clause on Oklahoma law by providing, ‘The state of Oklahoma is an inseparable part of the federal union, and the constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.’”

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, written by Reagan-appointed Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, was issued via a Republican plurality opinion in a joint agreement between O’Connor, Justice David Souter, appointed by George H.W. Bush and Justice Anthony Kennedy, also appointed by Reagan.

“For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail,” wrote O’Connor on behalf of the court. “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”

Following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear Oklahoma’s ultrasound case, the Center for Reproductive Rights praised the court for allowing the ruling to stand.

“A woman’s personal, private medical decisions should be made in consultation with the health-care professionals she trusts, without interference by politicians who presume to know better,” President Nancy Northup wrote in a statement. “Today the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand another strong decision by the Oklahoma courts protecting a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy from the intrusion of politicians opposed to her rights and indifferent to her health.”

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But Mary Spaulding Balch, the director of the National Right to Life Committee, stated that the law would have been effective in saving lives–thus the strong opposition to it.

“Ultrasound laws save lives,” she said. “According to a 2011 Quinnipiac University study, ‘ultrasound requirement laws reduce the odds of a woman having an abortion quite substantially.’ This finding would explain why ultrasound laws provoke such powerful reactions of our opponents even though ultrasounds are routinely performed and are required by abortion providers prior to the performance of any abortion.”

“This law protects a mother’s right to know something about her developing unborn child,” she continued. “It gives her a window to her womb. It helps to prevent her from making a decision she may regret for the rest of her life…”


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