“An ‘Impermissible Attempt’ To Coerce Women”: Federal Court Permanently Blocks North Carolina’s Narrated Ultrasound Law
A federal court on Friday permanently blocked a North Carolina law requiring women to undergo coercive counseling and a narrated ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. The judge permanently enjoined the unconstitutional law, ruling that “the Act requires providers to deliver the state’s message to women who take steps not to hear it and to women who will be harmed by receiving it with no legitimate purpose.”
United States District Court Judge Catherine Eagles called the law “an impermissible attempt to compel these providers to deliver the state’s message in favor of childbirth and against abortion.”
The decision is a clear victory for doctors and women in the state, and a strong indictment of similar laws intended to pressure or shame women out of accessing basic medical care.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, celebrated the ruling in a statement. “Today’s ruling marks a major victory for North Carolina women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country: it is unconstitutional for politicians to interfere in a woman’s personal medical decisions,” she said. “This dangerous law would have required abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and place the image in the woman’s line of sight — even if she asks not to view it. The provider would then be required to describe the image in detail — even over the woman’s objection. It made no exceptions for women under any circumstances, including cases of rape, incest, or those who receive a tragic diagnosis during pregnancy.”
The North Carolina law was a clear overstep, but as Salon has previously noted, forced ultrasound laws do virtually nothing to influence women’s choices, making them little more than intentionally punitive policies intended to shame women for making sound medical choices.
By: Katie McDonough, Salon, January 17, 2014
If the state of Arizona excels at one thing, it’s passing laws that make people angry. Today, an Arizona senate panel voted to give all employers the right to refuse coverage of birth control on their health-insurance plans. The bill is awaiting approval by the State Senate. Arizona Representative Debbie Lesko, a supporter of the bill, explained her rationale to the Arizona Star: “I believe that we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So government shouldn’t be telling employers, Catholic organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something that’s against their moral beliefs.”
In other contraception news, the controversial “Women’s Right to Know” Act, which would make it mandatory for women to have ultrasounds before getting abortions, made some more enemies today.
Republican Virginia State Senator Ryan McDougle, who backs the bill, received a barrage of posts on his Facebook page today from women who oppose the bill, asking McDougle for gynecological wisdom. One woman, complaining about her period, wrote, “frankly, I’ve had enough of this inconvenience — the costs of pads and pain reliever and all the mess — well YOU know how it is. You’re an expert on this lady stuff.” McDougle’s staff promptly removed the comments, but not before a screenshot was taken.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett also chimed in about the ultrasound bill. When asked if he thought it was going too far to make a woman look at her ultrasound before having an abortion, he replied: “You can’t make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes.” All in all, a rough day for Republicans and ladies.
By: Eliza Shapiro, Daily Intel, March 16, 2012
In the debates over pre-abortion ultrasound bills, advocates often say such measures are vital to ensuring that women have all the relevant information. The argument is often based in part on the idea that abortion providers make money off of the procedures—and therefore may try to trick women into terminating their pregnancies. The reasoning also assumes that when deciding to have an abortion, a woman should know the physical details of the fetus, like how many fingers and toes have developed. That’s why—in a messaging win for social conservatives—the pre-abortion sonogram requirement is often called a “Woman’s Right to Know” legislation.
But, Kansas Republicans may spoil all the fun. The state House is working on legislation that would allow doctors to withold information if it will help prevent an abortion, as well as requiring doctors to tell women that abortions increase odds of getting breast cancer—a theory many public health organizations reject. Forget right to know—the proposal promotes misinformation and distrust between doctors and patients. And that’s hardly the only disturbing part of the bill, which ostensibly is meant to cut back access to abortions.
The latest bill — which is scheduled to be discussed by a legislative committee for a second time on Wednesday — contains a number of provisions which would give the state one of the most sweeping anti-abortion laws in the nation. Among the provisions is one which would exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withhold information — in order to prevent an abortion — that could have prevented a health problem for the mother or child. A wrongful death suit could be filed in the event of the death of the mother.
Other provisions include requiring women to hear the fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion, taking away tax credits for abortion providers and removing tax deductions for abortion-related insurance. The bill also requires that women be told that abortions would increase the risk of breast cancer, a controversial theory that the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute and gynecological groups in the United States and the United Kingdom have said is incorrect.
The bill was scheduled for discussion on Wednesday, but it looks like technical amendments have it stuck in committee a bit longer. But, Kansas’ state House is among the most far right in the country and will likely pass the measure—the Senate, on the other hand, is up in the air. In the meantime, Celock reports that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback—a vehement social conservative—is friendly towards the bill.
If passed, the bill would make it much harder to make the already dubious claim that the pro-life movement is all about giving women “the facts.”
By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 1, 2012