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Fourth Circuit Finds Ultrasound Requirement Unconstitutional

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Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court opinion striking down a provision of North Carolina’s “Woman’s Right to Know Act” that requires abortion providers to display and describe ultrasound images to women seeking abortion in the state. In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court found the ultrasound requirement unconstitutional, and set the stage for a possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In January 2014, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that the ultrasound requirement of the 2011 law violated the First Amendment rights of abortion providers and women seeking abortions, and she issued a permanent injunction against it.

The Fourth Circuit’s decision upholding Judge Eagles’ ruling states in part, “The means used by North Carolina extend well beyond those states have customarily employed to effectuate their undeniable interests in ensuring informed consent and in protecting the sanctity of life in all its phases. We thus affirm the district court’s holding that this compelled speech provision violates the First Amendment.”

John L. Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, responded to the opinion, stating , “We are highly disappointed in the Fourth Circuit’s opinion and continue to believe that the display and description of the unborn child by the physician through an ultrasound is vital to ensuring truly informed consent. We pray that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up this case on appeal and reverse the lower courts’ misguided rulings.”

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