By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 26, 2014
RICHMOND, VA. – Monday, the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ultrasound provision of the Women’s Right to Know Act that passed in 2011 is unconstitutional. The three judge panel unanimously declared in an opinion written by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III that the provision essentially makes the physician “the mouthpiece of the state’s message.”
The ruling specifically stated that though the state is free to express its preference for child birth to women, it is not proper to require a physician to deliver the state’s message, especially under the circumstances a woman seeks an abortion – one “fraught with stress and anxiety.”
The law requires that as a part of informed consent a woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound image of her unborn child performed and that her medical provider describes the image. She is not required to look at the image or to listen to its explanation.
Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake), the champion of the Women’s Right to Know law, responded to the court’s decision by questioning how providing scientific information could possibly be unconstitutional. Stam added that even the court’s opinion “conceded that the explanation of the image may be the ‘epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.’ Abortion “[c]linics, which do not show an ultrasound to patients, deceive those patients at the most relevant time when a woman is deciding whether to go ahead with an abortion,” he said.
Barbara Holt, President of North Carolina Right to Life said, “We are disappointed by the decision of the Court striking down North Carolina’s ultrasound law. Turning the screen at an angle where the mother may view it if she wishes is very little to ask, considering that a human life hangs in the balance.”
Holt also explained that “[u]ltrasound technology has made tremendous advancements and provides a window to the womb that allows mothers to see their unborn children in real time.” “It is absolutely vital that a woman,” said Holt, “at this most crucial life-and-death juncture, be provided all the information possible about the procedure and the development of the unborn child. Simply put, the abortion decision cannot be undone. Women deserve all the facts.”
The ultrasound provision has never gone into effect because it was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood before its effective date. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles in October of 2011 issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the provision. In January of 2014, Judge Eagles issued a permanent injunction against the ultrasound requirement, ruling it was a violation of abortion providers First Amendment rights and a threat to the psychological health of women seeking to end their pregnancies.
The 4th Circuit’s decision is in stark contrast to the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey. In that case, decided in 2012, the court based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
The High Court’s decision in Lakey ordered that physicians must advise women seeking abortions of the age of their fetus; provide printed information concerning the risks of abortion, available medical help for childbirth, necessary child-support for fathers, and information regarding adoption services and alternatives to abortion.
The 5th Circuit’s decision in the Texas ultrasound case determined there were essentially no meaningful differences between the printed material required in Casey and the medical procedure mandated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lakey case.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s office will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s ruling concerning the Woman’s Right to Know law.
“This decision by the 4th Circuit is a travesty of justice,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Regardless of the arguments made by abortion providers, this is not a case about free speech. This matter is about our most precious right – the inalienable right to life.
“The court in this situation tries to argue that an abortion provider’s statement of fact about what’s revealed in a woman’s womb must have no moral or ideological implications. But nothing about the law dictates a medical professional deliver any moral message, nor does it require him or her to convey any point of view by the state or any other group or entity. What is simply required is that the woman is given all the facts. When she has all of the information, she can decide for herself. I suggest anything less is really not informed consent and not only threatens the life of the unborn child, but also the woman’s psychological health. Would to God the Court really knew how many women bitterly weep in regret for their abortions,” added Dr. Creech
Rep. Stam noted the Women’s Right to Know Act has been in effect since 2011. “Since 2010, abortions have been reduced by 23 percent in North Carolina. The Women’s Right to Know Act of 2011 set the path for better care for women and children in North Carolina. Those trends will continue into the New Year,” says Stam.