Supreme Court denies review of North Carolina ultrasound law

The U.S. Supreme Court has opted not to review a North Carolina ultrasound law struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, SCOTUSblog reports. The 8-1 decision, rendered without comment and opposed only by Justice Antonin Scalia, effectively ends state pro-lifers’ hopes of seeing the law take effect in its current form.

Enacted in 2011 and invalidated in December 2014’s Walker-McGill v. Stuart, the Woman’s Right to Know Act drew legal challenge on the grounds that, beyond requiring the performance of an ultrasound before an abortion, an abortionist must also verbally describe what the ultrasound displays.

“This compelled speech, even though it is a regulation of the medical profession, is ideological in intent and in kind,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote, arguing that as such it violated abortionists’ free speech rights under the First Amendment. He also claimed it goes beyond traditional informed-consent requirements because, “Rather than engaging in a conversation calculated to inform, the physician must continue talking regardless of whether the patient is listening.”

However, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden contends that the “court was wrong to view these reasonable disclosures of fact as merely ideological.”

The group issued a statement after the Supreme Court’s decision, noting: “Abortionists should not be exempted from the standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does…Contrary to the 4th Circuit’s decision, there is nothing ‘extreme’ about a measure that only seeks to require abortionists to employ technology they are already using for abortions.”

Wilkinson did concede that the rest of the law’s informed-consent requirements, including the risks of abortion and resources on abortion alternatives, were not at issue.

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