GREENSBORO, N.C. — A federal judge appointed by Barack Obama has struck down North Carolina’s ultrasound law as unconstitutional and potentially harmful to pregnant women.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagle issued her opinion on Friday, asserting that the regulation was “an impermissible attempt to compel [abortion] providers to deliver the state’s message in favor of childbirth and against abortion.”
Lawmakers in North Carolina passed the Women’s Right to Know Act in 2011, which required women to obtain an ultrasound prior to an abortion, and that the abortionist describe the child’s features to the mother, as well as offer the opportunity to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Then-Governor Beverly Purdue vetoed the legislation, but was overruled by a majority vote.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America soon filed suit to block the law from going into effect. Eagles sided with the abortion advocacy groups, placing an injunction on the requirement while the case moved forward in court.
On Friday, she issued her final judgment, ruling that “[b]ecause the speech-and-display provision violates Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights, enforcement of this provision must be enjoined.”
“The Act requires providers to deliver the state’s message to women who take steps not to hear it and to women who will be harmed by receiving it with no legitimate purpose,” Eagles wrote. “Thus, it is overbroad, and it does not directly advance the state’s interests in reducing psychological harm to women or in increasing informed and voluntary consent.”
The ACLU cheered the decision, referring to the Republican legislators who passed the bill as “extremist.”
“Today the court sided with the rights of women and their doctors over the ideological agenda of extremist lawmakers,” Jennifer Rudinger, the executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, wrote in a press release following the ruling. “If these unconstitutional measures had gone into effect, doctors would have been prevented from using their best medical judgment to provide patients with care based on their specific individual needs. This law represented an egregious government intrusion into individuals’ private medical decisions, and we are very pleased that it will not go into effect.”
But others stated that they found the ruling to be disturbing.
“This decision is a disappointment, especially considering that these laws seek to help women be as fully informed as possible as they find themselves about to make an irreversible and life changing decision,” the organization Susan B. Anthony List commented in an online blog. “Pro-abortion advocates frequently say that we need to trust women to make the right decisions for themselves. Their opposition to this law seems slightly hypocritical as it would enable women to make the right decisions for themselves once they have all the facts about abortion.”
“Secondly, this demonstrates the enormous power of the ultrasound and the fetal heartbeat,” it continued. “The image of the unborn child and the sound of his or her heart both stand as powerful testimonies that the unborn child is a precious human life. They speak volumes where words might otherwise fail. For that reason, pro-abortion advocates are terrified to make them available—terrified people will recognize the humanity of the unborn child.”