In another win for the nation’s pro-life movement, the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to review a case on a Kentucky law that requires doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to a patient before an abortion.
The high court justices declined on Monday (pdf) to reconsider an appeals court decision that upholds the state’s abortion law, effectively allowing the law to stand. They did not provide any comments or dissents on the decision.
The law, known as House Bill 2, requires a doctor to explain the details of the ultrasound while letting the patient listen to the fetal heartbeat, but also allows a woman to look away from the ultrasound screen and ask the doctor to turn the sounds off. If the doctors do not comply, they could be fined and referred to the state’s medical licensing board. The law was passed in 2017.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), challenged the law, arguing that it forces doctors to deliver a “government-mandated ideological message” to their patients in violation of their speech rights under the First Amendment, while causing harm to patients, according to their complaint (pdf).
The plaintiffs won in a lower court in 2017 and the law was blocked from going into effect. The state then appealed.
Then in April, judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 (pdf) that the Kentucky law did not violate the First Amendment rights of doctors, saying that there is nothing suspect about requiring a doctor, before performing an abortion, to give truthful, non-misleading factual information that is relevant to the patient’s decision-making process.
In the appeals case, Judge John Bush, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said the information conveyed by an ultrasound image is pertinent to a woman’s decision making because it provides the patient a greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her.
In the dissent, Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, said that the majority’s “decision opens the floodgates to states in this Circuit” to influence conversations between doctors and patients with ideological messages.
The ACLU then filed a petition (pdf) to the Supreme Court in September asking the top court’s justice to overturn the appeals court’s decision.
This case is one of the many which have emerged at a time during a national dialogue about abortion, where the federal government and many states are enacting or defending their enacted laws in court on the topic.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for another pro-life case, June Medical Services LLC v. Gee (pdf), in March next year. The case hears a challenge to a Louisiana law that requires all doctors who perform or induce an abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
–Metro Voice and wire services