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N.C. ultrasound law challenged by ACLU, Planned Parenthood

Last week a coalition of civil rights and reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina’s law requiring abortion providers to show women an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before having an abortion, even if the woman does not want to see the images.

According to a press release, 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 allege that “the new law violates the rights of health care providers and women seeking abortions.”

Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the legislation when it reached her desk, but the state Legislature was able to override her veto.

According to the ACLU of North Carolina press release:

The new law, which the North Carolina General Assembly passed in July over the veto of Governor Bev Perdue, requires abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and place the image in the woman’s line of sight. The provider is then required to describe the embryo or fetus in detail and to offer the woman the opportunity to hear the “fetal heart tone.” While the statute allows the woman to avert her eyes and to “refuse to listen,” the provider must still place the images in front of her and describe them in detail. The bill makes no exceptions for women in any circumstances.

“This law forces a doctor, while performing an ultrasound, to describe the embryo or fetus and put pictures in front of the woman’s face even if the woman says she doesn’t want to see them,” said Katy Parker, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “Imagine the pain this causes a woman who is forced to end a wanted pregnancy because of a catastrophic health emergency – or the additional trauma this unnecessary requirement will cause victims of rape or incest. No doctor should be forced to put a patient through that unnecessary trauma.”

Florida and Texas both passed ultrasound bills this past legislative session. However, Florida has avoided a legal challenge to its mandatory ultrasound bill because it included an opt-out provision. In Florida, women can bypass a description or viewing of the ultrasound by signing a form. However, ultrasounds are still required, whether or not it is medically necessary, before every abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America reported 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.

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