Judge Blocks Ultrasound Provision of N.C. Abortion Law

October 26, 2011 — U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles on Tuesday temporarily blocked part of a new North Carolina law (HB 854) that requires abortion providers to conduct ultrasounds and describe the images to women before providing abortion services, Reuters reports. The judge also halted a provision requiring doctors to offer women a chance to try to hear the fetal heartbeat, but she upheld a portion requiring a 24-hour waiting period before women can receive abortion care. The parts of the law allowed to stand will take effect on Wednesday.

Eagles said the groups challenging the law are likely to prevail on their arguments that the measure violates their constitutional rights. The groups said the ultrasound requirement would force doctors to deliver state-mandated messages discouraging abortion (Jenkins, Reuters, 10/25).

State officials argued that the measure would promote childbirth and protect patients from emotional distress associated with abortion. Eagles disagreed, writing that state officials "have not articulated how the speech-and-display requirements address the stated concern in reducing compelled abortions, and none is immediately apparent."

The next hearing on the case is scheduled for December (Robertson, AP/Kansas City Star, 10/25).