National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

SCOTUS Declines To Review N.C. Ultrasound Law, Law Remains Blocked

SCOTUS Declines To Review N.C. Ultrasound Law, Law Remains Blocked

June 15, 2015 — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from North Carolina over a partly blocked state law (SL 2011-45) that would require physicians to perform ultrasounds and describe the images to a woman before an abortion, AP/ABC News reports.

According to AP/ABC News, the high court did not take any action on a separate appeal over a blocked admitting privileges requirement (HB 1390) in Mississippi that, if permitted to take effect, could close the state's sole abortion clinic (AP/ABC News, 6/15).

Background

The North Carolina law, enacted in 2011, requires physicians to perform ultrasounds and display and describe the images to women seeking abortions, even if the women object. The requirement has never taken effect because of ongoing court challenges, although other provisions of the law remain in place.

Last year, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling that struck down the narrated ultrasound requirement, stating that the provision is an unconstitutional violation of physicians' free-speech rights.

In March, North Carolina requested that the Supreme Court consider the 4th Circuit's decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/1).

Details on SCOTUS Refusal

The Supreme Court's refusal to consider the appeal keeps intact the lower court's decision that held that the law violates physicians' free-speech rights.

However, the rejection does not affect other provisions in the law, including requirements that physicians provide state-mandated counseling to a woman prior to an abortion (Stohr, Bloomberg, 6/15).

Abortion-Rights Groups Praise Action

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- all of which filed the lawsuit challenging the North Carolina law -- praised the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case.

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "The Supreme Court has left standing major victories in the lower courts that will keep politicians out of the exam room and the personal decisions of North Carolina women seeking to safely and legally end a pregnancy."

Similarly, Jennifer Dalven, director of ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, praised the ruling. "In this country, [it is] not ok to turn doctors into the mouthpieces of politicians in order to make a woman feel bad about her decision" to have an abortion, she said.

PPFA President Cecile Richards said, "This dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place. Politicians across the country should take note -- these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won't be tolerated by the courts or the public" (CRR release, 6/15)