Supreme Court leaves in place Kentucky law requiring doctors to describe ultrasound

By Konstantin L | Shutterstock

The ACLU argued that the law violated the doctors’ freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a Kentucky law that requires doctors to describe ultrasounds to those seeking abortions. The refusal to hear the case, leaves the law in place.

The law, which was enacted in 2017, requires doctors in Kentucky to perform an ultrasound before giving informed consent to a patient seeking an abortion. Under the law, physicians are required to describe the fetus in detail, including a description of its location in the uterus, its size and the appearance of any external members of internal organs. In addition, physicians must let patients hear the fetal heartbeat, if audible. 

The Supreme Court’s decision fell on the last day in office for Governor Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican, who signed the bill into law.

After the law was struck down for violating the constitutional right to freedom of speech, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld it in April. In his decision Judge John Bush wrote:

 “The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient a greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her. This also inherently provides the patient with more knowledge about the effect of an abortion procedure: it shows her what or whom she is consenting to terminate.”

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged that ruling on behalf of Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, in Louisville, on the grounds that it violated physicians’ freedom of speech. 

In refusing to review the appeal, the justices did not comment.

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