North Carolina's Ultrasound Abortion Law Ruled Illegal by Federal Judge

A study recently proved what intuition has long indicated: women who want an abortion won't be swayed by being forced to see an ultrasound of their fetus. Shocking as that finding may have been to conservative pundits, the news couldn't have come at a better time. On Friday, a federal judge in North Carolina struck down a 2011 law mandating that abortion providers give women an ultrasound, along with an explanation, before performing the abortion. And the judgment wasn't based on the women's rights, here — the ruling claimed that the law violated the doctors' right to free speech.

According to U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles' ruling, the state doesn't have "the power to compel a health care provider to speak, in his or her own voice, the state's ideological message in favor of carrying a pregnancy to term .... and to disseminate the state's message discouraging abortion, in the provider's own voice, in the middle of a medical procedure, and under circumstances where it would seem the message is the provider's and not the state's."

"This is not allowed under the First Amendment," Eagles said.

The law — which currently still stands in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and, of course, Texas — requires that the provider offer the sound of a fetal heartbeat, and perform an ultrasound, complete with show and tell, at least four hours before an abortion. But, hey, "a woman is free to look away and ignore an explanation and medical description of what is on the screen."

Conservative pro-lifers were obviously unhappy with the ruling. "North Carolina's ultrasound requirement is no different than requiring speech for airlines and cigarette manufacturers for safety reasons," said the president of North Carolina Right to Life, clearly not understanding the key differences between company liabilities and legal medical procedures."The required information must be given even if the person hearing, seeing or reading the information finds the information upsetting, unnecessary or repetitive."

The fact is, though, a study published earlier this month in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that — in spite of claims to the contrary — for women who've firmly decided they need to get an abortion, seeing a picture of their fetus on a monitor just won't make any difference. Of the 42. 5 percent of women in the study who chose to see an ultrasound of their unborn baby, a whopping 98.4 percent still went ahead with the abortion. The people to whom an ultrasound made a difference? Mothers who opted for the ultrasound, but were already on the fence. Which makes sense, really: if you're already unsure, anything can be the deciding factor. But thanks to Friday's ruling, the other, much higher, percentage of women that the law was previously targeting, won't be forced into the no-doubt painful experience of being shown an ultrasound of their baby against their will.