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N.C. Plans Appeal of Ultrasound Law as Activists Stage 'Moral March'

February 10, 2014 — North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) on Friday said he would appeal a recent court ruling that overturned an ultrasound requirement in a state antiabortion-rights law (HB 854), Reuters reports (Maguire, Reuters, 2/7).

Under the legislation, 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 has to be kept on file for at least seven years.

Last 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, 1/29).

AG Expresses Personal Opposition to Law

Cooper, who is expected to be the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the 2016 gubernatorial election, in a statement said it is his responsibility to defend state laws "regardless of whether I agree with them."

He added, "While I oppose laws like this that force the state into women's medical decisions, the state will appeal this ruling because legitimate constitutional questions remain that should be decided by a higher court" (Jarvis, Raleigh News & Observer, 2/7).

Reactions

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Director Suzanne Buckley said the group expected the appeal, noting that state lawmakers recently approved a law that would allow the Legislature to issue its own appeal. She said, "This is obviously a controversial issue, but in reality it's a legal issue." She added, "We'd rather see an appeal based on the rule of law than one based on an extreme political agenda."

Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said he is confident that the appeal would fail, adding, "We think that regardless of your political position, everyone would be uncomfortable with putting words in the mouth of the physician" (Reuters, 2/7).

Meanwhile, Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, applauded Cooper's decision to appeal but criticized his statement, saying, "It's not interfering in a woman's medical decision for the state to require a full description of medical information to give women all the facts and circumstances before undergoing a serious operation like abortion" (Raleigh News & Observer, 2/7).

'Moral March' Protests N.C. Laws

In related news, thousands of people gathered last week to attend the "Moral March on Raleigh," to protest controversial GOP-supported laws enacted in the state, the AP/Washington Times reports.

The rally was the largest of its kind since similar weekly "Moral Monday" protests last year.

According to the Times, the protesters -- which event organizers estimated would include between 20,000 and 30,000 people from more than 30 states -- oppose laws they consider "extreme and backward," such as the refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), abortion restrictions and changes to education policies (Robertson, AP/Washington Times, 2/8).