The Woman’s Right to Know Act of 2011 demands that North Carolina physicians show and talk about a fetal ultrasound before a woman can have an abortion, but that mandate violates the First Amendment rights of doctors, a federal judge ruled late Friday.
In 2011, the Republican-led North Carolina legislature overrode then Democrat Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the law. The ideological bent of the law is ultimately what stumped US District Judge Catherine Eagles, who ruled Friday that the legislature can’t force doctors to forego a patient’s interest in order to utter words predicated on politics.
“The Supreme Court has never held that a state has the power to compel a health care provider to speak, in his or her own voice, the state’s ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term, and this Court declines to do so today,” Eagles wrote in her ruling.
The decision is part of a patchwork set of court rulings in the wake of a wave of anti-abortion measures that have swept the country in the last few years. Critics have lumped the legislative charge together as the “war on women,” a phrase used like a hammer by Democrats against Republicans during the 2012 presidential election.
The rancorous fetal ultrasound debate has had political reverberations as well in states like Virginia, after women’s groups – and subsequently many voters – objected to a proposed law that could force doctors to give women an intravaginal ultrasound ahead of an abortion. Gov. Bob McDonnell ultimately signed an ultrasound bill that did not mandate that invasive procedure.