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Appeals Court Unanimously Deems NC Ultrasound Abortion Law Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that a North Carolina abortion law is unconstitutional. The law, called the Women's Right To Know Act, requires doctors to perform ultrasounds and describe the images to women seeking abortions.

After a district judge struck down the law, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the measure imposed an unprecedented burden on doctors and their free speech rights.

The law was passed in 2011 by North Carolina's Republican-led legislature, despite a veto by Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue.

The ruling found the law to be essentially compelled speech.

Requirements in the law obligate doctors to perform an ultrasound “on any women seeking an abortion at least four but not more than seventy-two hours before the abortion” and “must display the sonogram so that the woman can see it, and describe the fetus in detail,” explains the ruling written by a three judge panel.

The law also requires physicians to explain the risks of the procedure, including psychological effects associated with abortion.

“It forces physicians to say things they otherwise would not say. Moreover, the statement compelled here is ideological; it conveys a particular opinion,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III said in the ruling.

That opinion belongs to the state of North Carolina, who “freely admits that the purpose and anticipated effect is to convince women seeking abortions to change their minds or reassess their decisions,” the ruling wrote.

The North Carolina state attorney general spokeswomen said they will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawmakers believe that this law provides the information women need when deciding to have an abortion. The problem is that doctors should not be forced to tell a women something she might or might not what to hear, especially when the information the doctor is giving reflects a state interest.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, echoed the concerns several civil liberty groups have with the law.

"Today’s ruling marks another major victory for women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country: It is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions about abortion," said Richards.

Source: Rueters, Los Angeles TImes, 4th Circuit Opinion / Photo Credit: Slate, USA Today


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