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Appeals Panel considers lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ultrasound law

by | Oct 30, 2014

By Dave Andrusko

The United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Richmond VA.

The United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Richmond VA.

For 45-minutes Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  closely questioned the Solicitor General of North Carolina and the attorney for national pro-abortion groups about the state’s 2011 ultrasound law.

The “Right to View” provision of North Carolina’s “Woman’s Right to Know” was preliminarily enjoined by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles in October of 2011. On January 17, 2014, Judge Eagles, an Obama appointee, issued a permanent injunction which the state appealed a month later.

According to press accounts, it sounds as if the judges were busy probing for weaknesses but also playing devil’s advocate.

The provision enjoined by Judge Eagles less than 24 hours before it was to into effect 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 coalition of opponents argued that this, in combination with the requirement that the abortionist describe the development of the baby at that stage, was “compelled speech” which “hijacks a provider’s [the abortionist’s] voice,” according to Julie Rikelman from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).

Not so, said Solicitor General John Maddrey. The provision adds “relevant, truthful, real-time information” to North Carolina’s informed consent law,” he said, the Associated Press reported. He added, according to reporter Larry O’Dell, that the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that a woman’s decision “is mature and informed.”

Maddrey went on to add that “The possibility that sharing physical characteristics of a fetus that might make a woman reconsider does not make it unconstitutional,” Franco Ordoñez of McClatchy Newspapers reported. Maddrey “cited earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions that found that the state has a legitimate interest to protect not only the health of a pregnant woman but also the life of the embryo or fetus she is carrying.”

Maddrey said, “There is an additional state interest at play,”  the unborn child.

The remainder of the law took effect the same day Eagles issued her preliminary injunction. 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.

The plaintiffs include CRR, state and national chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood.

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