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Women contemplating abortion will not have to be shown ultrasound images of their unborn children, because of action the US Supreme Court took Monday.
In a brief statement without comment, the court refused to hear an appeal from North Carolina officials seeking to revive a state law that had required doctors to perform ultrasounds, display the resulting sonograms and describe the fetuses to women. The case is known as Walker-McGill v. Stuart.
Justice Antonin Scalia dissented. The order left in place an December 2014 appeals court ruling that had held the law unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment.
“The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. “This compelled speech, even though it is a regulation of the medical profession, is ideological in intent and in kind.”
According to the state’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, 24 states require an ultrasound to be performed or offered before the performance of an abortion.
He told the justices that the law is “perfectly consistent with the First Amendment, as a reasonable regulation of medical practice.”
“Five states have enacted essentially the same display-and-describe requirement at issue in this case,” he wrote, “and an additional four states require a physician to provide a simultaneous explanation of an ultrasound image upon a woman’s request.”
"Doctors shouldn’t be forced to humiliate a woman and disregard their best medical judgment in order to provide an abortion," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.
Steven Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, told Reuters that abortionists "should not be exempted from the standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does."