After North Carolina Republicans reclaimed control of the General Assembly in 2010, they got right to work tackling culture-war issues Democratic lawmakers had previously rejected. Near the top of the list: requiring women to undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds before terminating a pregnancy.
At the time, then-Gov. Bev Perdue (D) vetoed the bill, but the GOP-led legislature overrode the veto in July 2011, passing the measure into law.
Late Friday afternoon, however, as Raleigh’s News & Observer reported, the proposal ran into trouble in the courts.
A federal court judge on Friday struck down North Carolina’s controversial law requiring women seeking abortions to be shown an ultrasound image while a doctor describes the images.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that provision of the 2011 law was an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment rights because it imposes state-mandated speech on medical professionals.
“It is an impermissible attempt to compel these providers to deliver the state’s message in favor of childbirth and against abortion,” the judge wrote.
There is a certain irony surrounding a policy like this. For years, Republicans have said they’re against “big government” interfering in Americans’ health care. The very idea of placing politics between a patient and a physician is ridiculous, conservatives have said, and allowing the government into an examination room is offensive at a fundamental level.
Except when it comes to policies like this one in North Carolina, when Republicans imposed what they claim to abhor, including having politicians instruct doctors on what they must say to patients – regardless of whether the medical professional’s own judgment.
The ruling explained, “The Supreme Court has never held that a state has the power to compel a health care provider to speak, in his or her own voice, the state’s ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term, and this court declines to do so today.”
A federal court on Friday permanently blocked a North Carolina law requiring women to undergo coercive counseling and a narrated ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. The judge permanently enjoined the unconstitutional law, ruling that “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.” […]
The decision is a clear victory for doctors and women in the state, and a strong indictment of similar laws intended to pressure or shame women out of accessing basic medical care.
The ruling will be appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.