Challenges to NC ultrasound law

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Lawyers in federal court in Greensboro Friday argued for and against a 2011 North Carolina law that requires physicians to perform an ultrasound and show it to his or her patient before providing an abortion.

The ultrasound would be required at least hours before the abortion.

The provision requires doctors to place the screen in the woman’s view during an ultrasound while describing the images in detail and offering for the patient to hear a “fetal heart tone.”

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ordered a preliminary injunction on the Woman’s Right to Know Act after health care providers and civil liberties advocates challenged key parts of the Act in 2011. Friday morning Judge Eagles heard arguments from each side of the case.

The law was vetoed by former Governor Bev Perdue but later adopted by the N.C. General Assembly.

The law would allow for a woman to cover her eyes and ears during the required ultrasound and presentation from her healthcare provider.

There are no exceptions for physicians in the law, who would be required to present the ultrasound and information about the fetus, even if his or her patient objects or the doctor feels it would be a traumatic experience.

Under current North Carolina law, abortion providers must perform an abortion but are not required to show it to the patient unless she requests to see it.

Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina told FOX8 Friday after the arguments, “The doctor has to show the patient this ultrasound and read a government-written script. So there’s no opportunity for the doctor to use his or her judgment for what is medically appropriate.”

He believes that impedes on the First Amendment rights of abortion providers to speak to their patients as they deem medically appropriate.

He continued, “That should make everyone uncomfortable when the government is needlessly interfering and intruding in the relationship between a physician and his or her patients.”

N.C. Right to Life President Barbara Holt says it’s not intruding; it’s informing. “Abortion is a life and death decision. An unborn child is going to die, and a mother is going to have to live with that decision the rest of her life.”

Holt added of the ultrasounds, “If it’s turned toward her so she can see it, she doesn’t have to ask for it. It’s right there for her to see. If she doesn’t want to see it, she can turn away.”

Holt said she’d spoken to many women who wish they’d been shown an ultrasound before having an abortion.

N.C. Speaker of the House Pro-Tem Paul Stam also agrees with the proposed ultrasound legislation.

He estimated abortion providers would lose 50 percent of their business if this law was enacted because women would change their minds about the abortion after seeing an ultrasound.

“Once they see their child sucking her thumb, twidling her toes, little heart beating at six weeks, they just think that’s important. The abortionists are going to lose a lot of money if they have to tell women that this ultrasound we’ve done at your expense–you can actually see it!” He believes that is ultimately why the law is being challenged.

Ellen Gerber of High Point says the idea of “allowing” a woman to “avert her eyes” is degrading. “Insanity. How undignified that is. How disrespectful of the woman’s personal right to make her own decisions. It’s disrespect for what a woman goes through to make a decision to have an abortion. This is not an easy decision and no one does it  carelessly and without thought.”

The plaintiffs argued Friday that the law was an excuse for the state to use doctors as “puppets for ideological speech and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Judge Eagles, the same judge who presided over the John Edwards trial in Greensboro, told the court she would have a decision no sooner than in several weeks.

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