NRL News

North Carolina Attorney General reluctantly agrees to defend state’s pro-life ultrasound law

by | Feb 18, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Barbara Holt, President, North Carolina Right to Life

Barbara Holt, President, North Carolina Right to Life

No doubt he was gritting his teeth as he composed his statement, but on Friday North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper(D) said the state will appeal U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles’ January 17 decision striking down the “Right to View” provision of North Carolina’s “Woman’s Right to Know” law.

“While I oppose laws like this that force the state into women’s medical decisions, the state will appeal this ruling because legitimate constitutional questions remain that should be decided by a higher court,” Cooper said in a statement released by his office. “It is the duty of the Office of Attorney General to defend state laws regardless of whether I agree with them.”

What adds extra layers of intrigue to his decision is that Cooper is a likely candidate to run against Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016.

A heavyweight coalition challenged the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

“We are pleased that Attorney General Cooper has decided to defend North Carolina’s ultrasound law in spite of his opposition to the pro-life provision,” said Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life. “A mother has the right to an opportunity to see an ultrasound image of her unborn child and to hear her baby’s heartbeat in advance of an abortion. How else can she make a fully informed decision to have the abortion, which will take the life of her unborn child?”

Holt added, “This is critically important information about her developing unborn child which many mothers who later regret their abortions say they wish they had been given at the time of their abortion.”

“I am pleased to know that the state will continue to seek resolution on this important issue,” State Rep. Ruth Samuelson said in an email to the Raleigh News Observer. “Women deserve to have as much information as possible before undergoing this sensitive medical procedure.”

Judge Eagles issued a preliminary injunction less than 24 hours before the law was to go into effect in October 2011. She enjoined the “Right to View” provision on First Amendment grounds, holding that this “generally includes the right to refuse to engage in speech compelled by the government.”

The provision enjoined by Judge Eagles requires 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 and that she be given the opportunity to hear the unborn child’s heartbeat.

The remainder of the law took effect the same day. Left intact are provisions for 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.

The law, passed with bi-partisan support, was enacted in July 2011 over then-Governor Beverly Perdue’s veto.

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Categories: Judicial Legislation