N.C. Leaders At Odds Over Appeal on Ultrasound Provision

January 29, 2014 — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and Republican legislative leaders disagree whether the state should appeal a recent court ruling that overturned an ultrasound requirement in a state antiabortion-rights law (HB 854), the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Dalesio, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/27).

Under the legislation -- which took effect in October 2011 -- an abortion cannot be performed unless a woman receives state-specified information about the procedure, an ultrasound and a description of the ultrasound image. The woman does not have to watch the ultrasound screen or listen to the description, but she had to sign a document acknowledging that the description was provided. The document had to be kept on file for at least seven years.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said the law violates a physicians' free-speech rights because the state does not have "the power to compel a health care provider to speak, in his or her own voice, the state's ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term" (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/21).

McCrory Against Appeal; GOP Leaders Favor It

McCrory said in a statement that the state should not appeal because it would be too costly and because other provisions were upheld.

"The heart of the legislation remains intact, and patients will still receive access to important information and ample time needed to make decisions," he said, adding, "After extensive review, I do not believe costly and drawn out litigation should be continued concerning only one provision that was not upheld by the court" (Jarvis, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/25).

However, state House Speaker Thom Tills (R) and state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R) said in a statement that they expect state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) "to quickly move forward with an appeal of this provision."

Cooper's office is consulting with both McCrory and the GOP legislative leaders about whether to file the appeal. Under a state law passed last year, the House speaker and Senate leader have the authority to defend laws if the attorney general does not fully protect them in court (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/27).

Advocates Respond

Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina spokesperson Paige Johnson said, "We commend the governor and think it's about time he stood up to the extremists in the legislature and kept his promise to the women of North Carolina not to impose any new restrictions on abortions."

North Carolina Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald expressed disappointment in McCrory, stating that "[n]o appeals court has found similar ultrasound provisions unconstitutional" (Raleigh News & Observer, 1/25).