Supreme Court Prevents Women in North Carolina From Seeing Ultrasound Before Abortion

State   Steven Ertelt   Jun 15, 2015   |   10:24AM    Washington, DC

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from the state of North Carolina to uphold a pro-life law allowing women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn baby before an abortion. Ultrasounds are routinely performed before an abortion but abortion clinics often don’t let women see the ultrasound image or get a description of their unborn baby before the abortion occurs.

Justice Antonin Scalia voted to hear the appeal but a majority of the justice voted against hearing it, meaning the law will not be upheld.

To allow women a chance to see the ultrasound, North Carolina passed a bill requiring abortion practitioners to ensure that happens. The law also requires the abortion practitioner to allow a woman considering an abortion to hear the heartbeat of her baby and to describe what the ultrasound shows. But it faced a lawsuit from the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

In January 2013, a district court imposed a temporary injunction on the law, claiming that its mandated disclosures about abortion are an unconstitutional imposition of “the state’s philosophic and social position discouraging abortion,” rather than being factually based.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden is involved in the case.

“Pro-life laws provide women with crucial information that they wouldn’t otherwise get from abortionists,” said Aden. “The court was wrong to view these reasonable disclosures of fact as merely ideological. This law simply provides women the adequate time and information they need to make such an important decision.”

“The State has a compelling interest in ensuring that women are not rushed or coerced into having an abortion,” the brief in Stuart v. Camnitz explains. “The General Assembly could appropriately take notice that some women who seek to obtain an abortion may have been pressured into doing so, and that women who have the opportunity to see and hear specific information about fetal development have time to ponder the decision and a chance to discuss it with their physician.

“Women in need deserve laws that are in the best interest of their physical and emotional well-being, and that take into consideration their unborn child,” added Aden. “We hope the court will allow this law so that women and children can flourish.”

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles in Greensboro issued the initial ruling about the law, which also provides for a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. The lawsuit, filed in the Middle District of North Carolina, claims the new law violates the rights of women and abortion facilities.

The law is important because women frequently complain they were not shown any ultrasound information before the abortion even though abortion centers routinely do them to determine the age of the unborn child at the time of the abortion.

The pro-life measure received approved from the state legislature and became law when lawmakers overturned a veto from pro-abortion Governor Bev Perdue, a Democrat. The measure helps women obtain information about abortion’s risks and alternatives they may not otherwise receive before an abortion.

Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based pro-abortion legal group, joined the lawsuit the ACLU filed.

Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, responded to the lawsuit, saying, “What are abortion advocates afraid of? Probably that when mothers see the recognizable images of their unborn children as they kick and move inside the womb, with beating hearts, abortionists will lose business.”

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Balch added: “As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in Gonzalss v. Carhart in 2007, ‘Whether to have an abortion requires a difficult and painful moral decision….The State has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed. It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know…’”

“Mothers and their unborn children are the victors today because this law would protect a mother’s right to receive vital information prior to making a life or death decision about her unborn child,” said Balch.“With final passage of this law,  no longer will mothers in North Carolina be left to the one-sided sales-promoting information provided by an industry that is in the business of killing unborn children.”

The informed consent bill provides that a booklet containing scientifically accurate information about risks, alternatives and information on the development of the unborn child, compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services, be offered to the mother at least 24 hours prior to an abortion so that she might have the opportunity to read and understand the information.  It also provides that an ultrasound image of the unborn child be displayed at least four hours prior to an abortion so that the mother might view it.

“The abortion industry, working in league with Governor Perdue, attempted to place a financial bottom line above the rights and protection of mothers,” Balch added.

During the committee debate on the legislation, lawmakers engaged in a jaw-dropping discussion to determine if it is better that children not be killed in an abortion or save the state money. Members of the appropriations committee debated a fiscal note legislative staff attached to the bill saying it would result in more than 2,900 births of children annually who may otherwise have become victims of abortion. The made the estimates based on similar legislation in Mississippi that resulted in abortion reductions and claimed the births would cost the state approximately $7 million a year in Medicaid expenses.

Rep. Burt Jones of Rockingham was incredulous and said, according to WRAL, that he couldn’t believe legislators were debating whether more abortions or more expenses were better.

“To me, it is incredible that we would even debate the idea that somehow we can improve the fiscal impact of this state by not allowing children to be born,” he said. “I’m a fiscal conservative, but if we’ve got to pay a little more money in this state because more children have the right to be born, then so be it.”

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