First Amendment

Abortion ultrasound law violates First Amendment, 4th Circuit says

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A federal appeals court has ruled that North Carolina’s abortion ultrasound law violates the First Amendment.

The law requires physicians to perform an ultrasound, display the sonogram, and describe the fetus to women seeking abortions, even if the woman averts her eyes or refuses to listen. The measure does allow an exception in cases of emergency. In a ruling (PDF) on Monday, the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law is “quintessential compelled speech” that is by its very nature content-based.

“The clear import of displaying the sonogram in this context—while the woman who has requested an abortion is partially disrobed on an examination table—is to use the visual imagery of the fetus to dissuade the patient from continuing with the planned procedure,” the appeals court said.

The state had argued the law does not require doctors to follow a particular script and they are free to insert their own opinions about abortion. The appeals court said, however, that supplemental speech by the physician does not cure the coercion. The state also argued that the law is a reasonable regulation of the medical profession, but the appeals court said the ultrasound regulations “look nothing like traditional implied consent.”

Hat tip to @MikeScarcella.

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