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Supreme Court Denies N.C. Appeal On State's Ultrasound Abortion Law

A North Carolina law that would require women who want an abortion to have an ultrasound scan prior to the procedure suffered a final defeat Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to review the case. A federal judge declared the law illegal in early 2014.

The controversial law had been placed under an injunction soon after it took effect back in 2011. It was struck down on the grounds that it reflected ideological, rather than medical, priorities and violated doctors' right of free speech.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the earlier ruling last December. Member station WUNC quotes the three-judge panel's opinion:

"Transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes."

Here's how we described the North Carolina law last year:

"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.' "

In the Supreme Court's list of orders including the one that denied North Carolina's petition, Justice Antonin Scalia was named as the lone dissenting justice.

At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston notes: "Because the Court, as usual, provided no explanation for its vote not to review ... North Carolina's 2011 ultrasound law, its action was not a reliable indicator of how the Justices would have ruled on the issue had they taken it on."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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