NY Times Op-Ed: N.C. Ultrasound Law Has 'Finally Died,' But Other States 'Aren't So Lucky'

June 16, 2015 — A North Carolina law (SL 2011-405) that required physicians to perform an ultrasound on a woman before an abortion and show and describe the image to her, even against her wishes, "finally died Monday morning when the Supreme Court declined to consider the federal appeals court ruling that struck it down," columnist Jesse Wegman writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times' "Taking Note."

Wegman explains that "[d]epending on where they live, those seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion must endure, among other things, waiting periods of up to 3 days, medically inaccurate lectures, or trips of hundreds of miles to reach the closest operating clinic that hasn't been shut down on false pretenses." However, he notes that "for the purest expression of paternalistic condescension, wrapped in a bow of bodily invasion and delivered via an unequivocal violation of the First Amendment, it is hard to match the ... ultrasound laws" in North Carolina and other states.

"The idea behind such laws, of course, is that pregnant women ... have not truly contemplated the gravity of the procedure they have chosen to undergo" and that, if they viewed an ultrasound, they would "happily carry their fetus to term," Wegman writes.

Wegman praises 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harvie Wilkinson, who in a decision last December "saw North Carolina's law for the repugnant farce that it is." According to Wegman, Wilkinson ruled that the "law had nothing to do with informed consent" and was "'quintessential compelled speech' ... intended only to convey 'the full weight of the state's moral condemnation' of a woman exercising her constitutional rights." He adds, "Wilkinson had it precisely right -- and for now, at least, the Supreme Court does not disagree."

However, Wegman notes that "while North Carolina women may be able to rest a little easier in the knowledge that they will not have to endure medical procedures against their will, women in Texas, Louisiana and Wisconsin aren't so lucky." He writes, "All of these laws don't change the fundamental fact that abortion is and has always been an intensely personal decision" that "[w]omen are no less capable today of making ... than they were in 1973, when the Supreme Court recognized their constitutional right to do so" (Wegman, "Taking Note," New York Times, 6/15).