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Federal Judge Says N.C. Ultrasound Abortion Law Is Illegal

A controversial North Carolina law requiring women who want to have an abortion to undergo an ultrasound scan is illegal, according to a federal judge's ruling issued Friday. The state's law required that the women have a medical professional tell them what the image depicts. It also said the women should "listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child."

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued her ruling in Greensboro, N.C., where the News Observer reports the judge "called the law 'overbroad,' and said it didn't sufficiently protect women who didn't want to be exposed to that information."

After the law took effect in 2011, Eagles issued an injunction that blocked the ultrasound requirement, citing reservations over enlisting medical providers to deliver a "non-medical message to patients unwilling to hear or see," as North Carolina's Daily Tar Heel reported.

The judge echoed those ideas in today's ruling.

"It is an impermissible attempt to compel these providers to deliver the state's message in favor of childbirth and against abortion," Eagles said, according to the News Observer.

Titled the Women's Right to Know Act, the law was linked to controversy from its early days. After lawmakers initially approved it in 2011, the law was vetoed by Gov. Bev Purdue. But the two chambers of North Carolina's Republican-led Assembly voted to overrule the veto.

From the AP:

"Eagles had put the law on hold a few months after the Republican-led state legislature passed the law in 2011. She said then that providers did not have to place an ultrasound image next to a pregnant woman so she can view it, describe its features and offer the patient the chance to listen to the heartbeat."

News of Eagles' decision was welcomed by opponents of the law -- Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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