Attorneys Argue Whether NC's Ultrasound Abortion Law is Constitutional

5:08 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC - Judge Cathrine Eagles says a decision on wther North Carolina's Women's Right To Know law is constitutional could take weeks.

The judge made the comment on Friday when attorneys gathered in the federal court in Greensboro to argue their case for and against the abortion law involving ultrasounds.

The General Assembly passed the controversial law in 2011 but the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights quickly sued and the law was put on hold.

Lawmakers overrode then-Governor Bev Perdue's veto for this legislation to become law.

The state says this ultrasound law is about a woman's right to know but the plaintiffs say, it's about the woman's right to say no.


WFMY News 2's Faith Abubey was in federal court for the hearing and talked to both sides after the proceedings.

"The facts are in favor of the state," explained Representative Paul Stam, R-Wake County.

"We're very confident that we're going to get a good decision here today," said Chris Brooks, Legal Director, ACLU North Carolina.

The law in question requires a woman to get an ultrasound 4 hours before an abortion. It also requires doctors to show and describe the image to the woman.


It makes no exceptions.

"Whether the woman seeking the procedure has been a victim of rape or incest, or any other circumstance. So it really is a very broad and inflexible statute," explained Brooks.  

Julie Rikleman, the lawyer fighting the law, told the judge to strike down the law down.

She says it allows the state to use doctors as "puppets" to spread lawmakers' "ideological" message. She also argued the law violates the First Amendment right of doctors and doesn't allow them to make their own medical judgments for the patients.

Rikleman also argued it gives no choice to women.

The state's lawyer, Faison Hicks, told the court "sometimes we just have to hear what is not pleasant to hear" and that the law is reasonable and necessary.

House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam was in court to support the state and said abortion rights advocates are trying to have it both ways.

"You can't satisfy them because their goal is to make as much money as possible. And they are going to lose half their business if they have to tell women, 'look at the ultrasound if you want to and I'll show you your kid sucking his thumb,'" said Stam.

"It's really about shaming a woman who wants to exercise her constitutional rights," argued Brooks.

A major sticking point is whether the law really forces women to watch and listen to the doctor, even if they would rather not.


The state argued women can wear blinders and headphones to avoid the doctor.

Rickleman shot back say the law still requires doctor to continue the presentation and the patient has to remain on the operating table.

"She can avert her eyes and she doesn't have to listen just like someone on an airplane. They have to give out information about safety. But the passengers don't have to listen,"  explained Barbara Holt, President, North Carolina Right to Life.

"What insanity. How undignified that is," said Ellen Gerber, ACLU member.

Eagles, who presided over the case, was really involved in the proceedings and asked a lot of questions, especially of the state.

She asked the attorney to explain his arguments further and also asked Hicks whether doctors lose their First Amendment rights when they become physicians.  

Judge Catherine Eagles says it could take several weeks before she makes a decision.

To read the legislation in question, click here. 


WFMY News 2

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