On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear North Carolina’s appeal to restore a state law that would force a woman to view a sonogram of her fetus and to listen to a doctor describe the fetus in detail, before she would be permitted to have an abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeal leaves in place an appeals court ruling that determined that North Carolina’s law violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the appeals court’s unanimous three judge ruling, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote on behalf of the court:
The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient. This compelled speech, even though it is a regulation of the medical profession, is ideological in intent and in kind.
A number of medical professionals signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to reject the state’s appeal and uphold the lower court ruling. In their brief, the medical professionals stated:
The state requires physicians to recite the state’s message even when the patient physically avoids seeing or hearing it. That is farce, not informed consent, and it demonstrates beyond any doubt that the requirement is an impermissible attempt to use physicians to spread the state’s ideological message. The First Amendment simply does not allow that result.
The conservative-leaning Supreme Court apparently agreed and refused to consider the appeal. Judge Antonin Scalia dissented from his colleagues, but aside from Scalia, no other justice agreed to hear the case.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to revive North Carolina’s ultrasound law is a small, but significant victory for reproductive rights in the United States. Republican dominated lawmakers will continue to write laws in many states that infringe upon a woman’s right to choose. However, many of those laws are so blatantly ideological that they run afoul of the Bill of Rights. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina, and in many other red states, have become so extreme that even the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court recognizes they are trampling upon the constitutional rights of pregnant women.