A North Carolina law requiring that doctors perform and explain the fetal ultrasound of a woman seeking an abortion has been struck down.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles stated in her decision nullifying the 2011 law that a state does not have "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," Reuters reported.
The federal judge found that the law violates doctors’ First Amendment right to free speech, as it "compels a health care provider to act as the state's courier and to disseminate the state's message discouraging abortion, in the provider's own voice, in the middle of a medical procedure."
"The state should not be using women’s bodies as political pawns," said Andrew Beck, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "As a result of the court’s decision, doctors will be able to continue to give their patients the kind of conscientious medical care they deserve."
Conservative lawmakers passed the law to encourage women seeking abortions to continue with their pregnancies.
“North Carolina's ultrasound requirement is no different than requiring speech for airlines and cigarette manufacturers for safety reasons," said Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life. "The required information must be given even if the person hearing, seeing or reading the information finds the information upsetting, unnecessary or repetitive."
The judge, however, agreed with the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, which filed the lawsuit— it is not the domain of the state to require doctors to spread a certain non-medical belief.
"Today's court ruling protects the rights of women and their doctors from the ideological agenda of extremist lawmakers," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina.
Oklahoma attempted to institute a similar law, which was struck down by lower courts and then the U.S. Supreme Court when the state tried to appeal.
A recent study found that even when women seeking an abortion see an ultrasound of the fetus, almost all decide to go ahead with their decision. Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin have laws on the books requiring women be shown their ultrasound before they can have an abortion.