A federal judge struck down part of a North Carolina abortion law on Tuesday, saying the state cannot require abortion-providers to show and discuss with pregnant women ultrasound images of the fetus.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that doctors and others challenging the law were likely to win on their contention that the provision violated their constitutional rights.
“The part of the law that the court blocked not only forces doctors to go against their medical judgment to deliver an ideological message to their patients, but also forces women to lie down and just take it," Bebe Anderson, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
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"It’s hard to imagine a more extreme example of government intrusion into the private matters of individual citizens.”
The judge left in place other portions of the law, including a provision requiring a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion. Eagles agreed with the plaintiffs that provisions of the law would violate the free-speech rights of doctors and inflict irreparable harm on health care providers.
“If the ultrasound requirements were put into effect, this law would place doctors in a murky legal situation and inflict unnecessary harm on women,” said Katy Parker, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation.
Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life, said she was encouraged that the judge allowed most of the law to go into effect. "We are confident that the courts, upon further review, will allow the ultrasound provision to go into effect," she said.
The state says the ultrasound requirements would help protect the psychological health of patients and prevent coerced abortions.
On Aug. 1, a federal judge blocked a Kansas law that aimed to keep federal funds from Planned Parenthood, a victory in one of several battles the women’s health provider is fighting in conservative states.
A federal appeals court ruled in September that South Dakota may require doctors to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she has a legal relationship with her unborn child. But the court also ruled against the state’s requirement that doctors tell women that abortion raises the risk of suicide.
In another recent ruling, a federal judge temporarily blocked a Texas law forcing women to get a sonogram and listen to the heartbeat of the fetus before an abortion.