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Judge rules invasive North Carolina abortion law unconstitutional

By Yukio Strachan     Jan 19, 2014 in Politics
Greensboro - A North Carolina law forcing doctors to "show" and "describe" ultrasound images to every woman who seeks an abortion-- regardless of the patient's wishes --is unconstitutional, a judge on Friday ruled.
“The one-size-fits-all speech-and-display provision violates Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. The Act requires providers to deliver the state’s message to women who take steps not to hear it and to women who will be harmed by receiving it with no legitimate purpose,” wrote District Judge Catherine C. Eagles in her decision. "Thus, it is overbroad, and it does not directly advance the state’s interests in reducing psychological harm to women or in increasing informed and voluntary consent."
The scathing 42-page ruling, made public late Friday afternoon, was praised by attorneys and others who had challenged the provision, ABC11 reported.
“Today the court sided with the rights of women and their doctors over the ideological agenda of extremist lawmakers,” said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
The “speech-and-display provision,” part of the 2011 The Woman's Right to Know Act, requires physicians to "perform an ultrasound at least four hours in advance of an abortion, during which he or she must display ultrasound images so that the patient may view them and must describe the images to the patient. The description must include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable," according to court documents.
As a result, the Plaintiffs—several North Carolina physicians and health care providers—brought the lawsuit on behalf of themselves and their patients arguing that "the speech-and-display provision" violated their First Amendment rights.
The Defendants, on the other hand, disagreed. "By providing information which makes it less likely the woman will terminate the pregnancy," they argued "the speech-and-display provision" would help persuade women to choose full term childbirth over abortion.
Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh said he was "deeply saddened" by the judge’s ruling, the News & Observer reported. “This ruling does a great disservice to the women of our State, as it denies those who are pregnant from receiving full access to all available medical information," said Burbidge in a statement Friday.
"Women are entitled to and deserve our respect, compassion and support. And so to deny a woman from receiving the truth, especially with regard to a decision which will impact her life and the life of her unborn child is to deny her the freedom of information that all people expect from their health care providers."
No word yet if the state will appeal, ABC11reported.
More about first amendment rights, abortion law, Mandate ultrasound, Catherine C Eagles, Aclu
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