A federal judge stopped a law set to take effect today that would have forced abortion providers to show women an ultrasound and describe it to them before providing an abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the state earlier this month alleging that “the new law violates the rights of health care providers and women seeking abortions.”
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has put implementation of the law on hold “until she can hear more arguments,” the Associated Press reports.
North Carolina legislators and officials have argued that by offering the image to a woman seeking an abortion and other information they would promote childbirth and protect patients from emotional distress associated with the procedure and possible coercion. The judge said she received no evidence supporting those arguments.
North Carolina officials “have not articulated how the speech-and-display requirements address the stated concern in reducing compelled abortions, and none is immediately apparent,” the judge wrote in a preliminary injunction.
Attorneys for abortion providers and abortion-rights groups argued the ultrasound directives, carried out at least four hours before the scheduled procedure, actually would subject women to emotional pain and violate the medical ethics of doctors who feel the government is forcing them to carry out the Republican-controlled Legislature’s ideology.
“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 of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation “The state should not be using women’s bodies as political pawns, as this law clearly seeks to do.”
Eagles did, however, uphold a provision in the law that imposed a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.
The state of Florida also passed a law this year requiring a women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion, whether it is medically necessary or not. However, Florida has avoided a legal challenge because the law includes an opt-out provision. In Florida, women can bypass a description or viewing of the ultrasound by signing a form.
NARAL Pro-Choice America data shows that so far this year “anti-choice lawmakers have introduced 28 ultrasound-related bills in 14 states.” Before this year’s sessions, there were already 21 states that had some sort of ultrasound legislation in place.