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North Carolina ultrasound abortion law overturned

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 20th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has struck down a 2011 North Carolina law that requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and explain the procedure to a woman before the abortion. Judge Eagles ruled that the law violated the constitutional right to free speech of doctors.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Eagles, the 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."

The law, she says "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, and under circumstances where it would seem the message is the provider's and not the state's," in her 42-page ruling.

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"This is not allowed under the First Amendment," Eagles ruled.

The ultrasound requirement of the law had been blocked by Eagles a few months after it was passed due to concerns over what she described as the "non-medical message" doctors were required to deliver.

Under the original law, an ultrasound image had to be presented in addition to the sound of the fetal heartbeat proffered at least four hours before the abortion. The woman would be free to look away and ignore an explanation in addition to the medical description of what was on the screen.

The law's defenders said it provided crucial information for women making a major and irrevocable decision.

"North Carolina's ultrasound requirement is no different than requiring speech for airlines and cigarette manufacturers for safety reasons," Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life said. "The required information must be given even if the person hearing, seeing or reading the information finds the information upsetting, unnecessary or repetitive."

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Lawmakers in recent years have enacted laws that seek to place restrictions on the procedure, especially on late-term abortions.

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