RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s attorney general said Friday he’s decided to appeal a federal court ruling that struck down part of a law requiring abortion providers to describe an ultrasound to women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said the state will appeal the ruling even though he opposes laws like the one approved by the General Assembly in 2011, when it overrode the veto of Democratic then-Gov. Beverly Perdue. Cooper hasn’t yet filed the formal paperwork to appeal the January ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Cooper’s office said previously that state attorneys would consult with legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory’s office before making a decision. McCrory and legislative leaders, while all Republican, had opposing views on an appeal.
“While I oppose laws like this that force the state into women’s medical decisions, the state will appeal this ruling because legitimate constitutional questions remain that should be decided by a higher court,” Cooper said in a release. “It is the duty of the Office of Attorney General to defend state laws regardless of whether I agree with them.”
The Republican-led legislature passed the law that in part required abortion providers to place an ultrasound image next to a pregnant woman so she can view it.
The law directed the provider to describe its features and offer the patient the chance to listen to the heartbeat. It also required abortion providers to describe the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs if they were present and viewable. The patient was not required to watch the display or listen to the explanation.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles had already issued a preliminary injunction more than two years ago preventing enforcement of the detailed ultrasound requirements for medical providers while the case was heard. She ruled Jan. 17 the directions amounted to violating freedom-of-speech rights and called the providers’ script an “ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term.”
McCrory, governor since early 2013, had said recently he didn’t think it was worth the cost to seek an appeal. He cited other parts of the law that are still enforceable, including provisions that women receive information about the likely stage of fetal development and the availability of abortion alternatives.
But House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger said publicly last week they expected the attorney general to quickly move forward with an appeal on “the most critical piece of the law.” Berger and Tillis led the General Assembly at the time of the law’s passage.
“We are pleased that the Attorney General’s Office agrees with the General Assembly that it is important to appeal this provision” of the abortion law, Tillis said Friday in a release. Berger’s office referred questions back to last week’s statement. McCrory’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request Friday afternoon seeking comment.
Cooper has been criticized recently by Republicans for speaking out against legislation that his office is supposed to defend on behalf of the state. They include an election overhaul law and 2012 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which are both being challenged in court. Cooper has said he can put his personal feelings aside and lead state attorneys defending the laws in a professional manner.
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