The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from North Carolina state officials attempting to restore a state law requiring doctors to conduct ultrasounds and describe the fetuses to women wanting an abortion.
The court’s refusal left intact an appeals court decision deeming the law unconstitutional under the First Amendment for violating doctors’ free speech rights.
The North Carolina Women’s Right to Know Act required doctors to provide “an explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting, which shall include the presence, location, and dimensions of the unborn child within the uterus and the number of unborn children depicted.”
North Carolina’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, wrote in the petition to the Supreme Court that the law is “perfectly consistent with the First Amendment, as a reasonable regulation of medical practice.”
He noted 24 states require an ultrasound to either be performed or offered prior to an abortion. Five of those states, according to Cooper, have similar “display-and-describe” requirements while another four require physicians to give an explanation of an ultrasound if a woman requests it.
The appeals court wrote in December the law “imposes a virtually unprecedented burden on the right of professional speech.”
“The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. “This compelled speech, even though it is a regulation of the medical profession, is ideological in intent and kind.”
The Supreme Court did not list a reason in Monday’s appeals rejection. Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, but also did not detail his decision.