RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory opposes a court fight to reverse a federal judge’s ruling invalidating part of a state law that would have required abortion providers to describe a pre-procedure ultrasound’s image to every patient, the Republican governor’s office said Saturday.
McCrory’s office issued a statement quoting him as saying he doesn’t think costly and extended litigation is worthwhile to restore one provision of the law passed in 2011. The court ruling did not bar other parts of the law requiring that women receive information about the physician at least 24 hours before an abortion, the likely stage of fetal development, and the availability of abortion alternatives
“The heart of the legislation remains intact and patients will still receive access to important information and ample time needed to make decisions,” McCrory is quoted as saying.
Attorney General Roy Cooper has not said whether state attorneys would appeal the Jan. 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles. Cooper, a Democrat, is elected independently of McCrory.
The Republican-led General Assembly last year also gave itself the authority to defend laws it passed if Cooper fails to fully defend them in court. The law gives the state House speaker and Senate leader the option to hire lawyers to defend a state statute or constitutional provision rather than relying on Cooper.
Eagles’ ruling described part of the 2011 “Woman’s Right to Know Act,” which she called its “speech-and-display” provision, as a violation of constitutional free-speech rights. That provision required abortion providers to place an ultrasound image next to a pregnant woman so she can view it, describe its features, and offer the patient the chance to listen to the heartbeat. The law required abortion providers to describe the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs if they were present and viewable. The patient was not required to watch the display or listen to the explanation.
North Carolina legislators had argued that offering the ultrasound image to a woman seeking an abortion along with other information would promote childbirth.
The dispute centered “on whether the state can compel providers to deliver the state’s message to women who do not want to hear it or who are at risk of significant psychological harm from receiving it,” Eagles wrote in her ruling.
The ruling came two months after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in an overturned Oklahoma law that would’ve required women seeking abortions to first view an ultrasound image of a fetus.
That leaves Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin with laws in effect similar to those passed in North Carolina and Oklahoma, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
In seven other states including Virginia, required ultrasounds must be offered for viewing to the patient before each abortion, according to the group. Virginia lawmakers proposed high-profile legislation in 2012 that would have forced women to undergo vaginally invasive ultrasound exams before having abortions. The procedure was deleted from the bill in favor of a mandated external ultrasonic exam and became law.