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SCOTUS Decision Strikes NC’s Ultrasound Requirement


The U.S. Supreme Court will not review a lower court ruling that struck down a provision in North Carolina’s 2011 Woman’s Right to Know Act, which required abortionists in the state to display and describe ultrasound images to women seeking abortions. In an order issued on Monday, June 15, the high court declined to hear Walker-McGill v. Stuart, a case that involves a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU-NC Legal Foundation, and several pro-abortion groups to portions of the North Carolina law.

“The failure of the U.S. Supreme Court to take this case is highly disappointing,” said John L. Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The ultrasound provision of the Woman’s Right to Know Act is designed to ensure that women considering abortion have access to the entire complement of information that is available and necessary to achieve fully informed consent. When women see the undeniable image of their living child in the womb, many make a decision to save the life of that child and avoid an abortion decision they will regret for the rest of their lives.”

In January 2014, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles issued a permanent injunction against the ultrasound requirement in House Bill 854 (2011 Session), ruling that it violated the First Amendment rights of abortion providers and women. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Judge Eagles’ decision in December 2014, which set the stage for the State’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed a motion to intervene in the case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the decision to decline the North Carolina case. “We’re disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided not to review a decision that denies mothers this fully informed consent about human life in the womb and the methods abortionists use to end it,” ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden said in a statement.Contrary to the 4th Circuit’s decision, there is nothing ‘extreme’ about a measure that only seeks to require abortionists to employ technology they are already using for abortions. Abortionists simply don’t want to use it in a way that jeopardizes their profits and shows women the truth.”

Although the ACLU and their allies have prevailed in their challenge to the ultrasound requirement, the remainder of the 2011 Woman’s Right to Know Act remains intact, including a waiting period requirement for abortions, which was recently extended from 24 to 72 hours under legislation enacted into law during the 2015 Legislative Session.

Under the Woman’s Right to Know Act, women seeking abortions in North Carolina are still required to be fully informed about relevant issues such as:

  • Abortion methods and the associated medical risks,
  • Possible adverse psychological effects of abortion,
  • Medical risks of carrying a pregnancy to term,
  • Probable gestational age of the unborn child,
  • Public and private agencies and services available to assist the woman through pregnancy, at childbirth, and after the child is born,
  • Information on free ultrasounds.

More information is available on the State’s “Woman’s Right to Know Act” webpage at




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