A group of abortion clinics, doctors and pro-choice groups are suing to block a North Carolina law that would require a pregnant woman to have an ultrasound and receive information about her fetus before she can obtain an abortion.
It is unethical to force health professionals to deliver "state-mandated ideological speech to patients" and force patients "to allow their bodies to be treated as the source for government-mandated speech," Dr. Gretchen S. Stuart and other plaintiffs said in the lawsuit, filed Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of North Carolina.
The lawsuit is the latest filed this year against new state laws seeking to regulate abortion.
North Carolina's "Woman's Right to Know" law goes into effect Oct. 26. Its goal is to ensure that women are fully informed about abortion before it is performed.
A key section of the law says that at least four hours before an abortion, and before any anesthesia is given, a doctor must provide "an obstetric real-time view" of the fetus for the woman.
The doctor must give a medical description of the image, and display the screen so the woman can see it, although she is not required to look at the image. She must also be offered the opportunity to hear the fetal heart tone.
The woman then must give written consent that she received this counseling, plus other printed materials about abortion.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs say that parts of the law are "impermissibly vague," while other sections violate the rights of both health care providers and women. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America seek a permanent injunction of the law.
Defendants include North Carolina Medical Board President Janice E. Huff and state Attorney General Roy Cooper. A request for comment from Mr. Cooper's office was not returned Friday.
Supporters of the law said it should pass muster and is needed by women.
During the hearings, opponents predicted a lawsuit, so lawmakers spent a lot of time with legal experts to make sure the law was constitutional, "and we think it will be upheld," said Bill Brooks, president and executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
"When a mother's decision involves the life or death of her unborn child, she needs more, not less, information," Barbara Holt, president of the North Carolina Right to Life, said on her blog after the lawsuit was filed.
During the hearings, lawmakers heard from women who said they didn't fully understand what was happening to them when they had an abortion. Danielle Hallenbeck said that when she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic in 1993, no one talked about post-abortion health risks, and she wasn't even introduced to the doctor.
The only words she heard him say during the operation were when "he said, 'You're further along than you thought.' Those words haunt me to this day," Ms. Hallenbeck testified.
Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed the law, but the North Carolina General Assembly, which is led by Republicans for the first time in more than a century, overrode it.
In Texas, a new law requires a pregnant woman to receive an ultrasound — and be told about its image, whether she looks or not. A federal judge has blocked parts of that law, saying it was unconstitutional.
Lawsuits over abortion laws are also under way in North Dakota, Indiana, Kansas and South Dakota.
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Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor. Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
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