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McCrory is right; don’t appeal abortion ruling

Gov. Pat McCrory has it right. North Carolina should not appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s requirement that women seeking abortions be shown a narrated ultrasound before the procedure. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles was spot on in asserting that the law, which mandated that physicians performing the abortions show women ultrasound images and describe them in detail before the procedure – even if the women objected – is impermissible.

Said Eagles earlier this month: “The Supreme Court has never held that a state has 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 this court declines to do so today.”

It’s not that McCrory necessarily agrees with Eagles. He cites more practical considerations: “After extensive review, I do not believe costly and drawn out litigation should be continued concerning only one provision that was not upheld by the court,” he said in a written statement Saturday. The law has other requirements, including a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and that women be given extensive information about birth, child care and alternatives to abortion.

Sadly, leaders in the Republican-controlled N.C. legislature came out Monday staunchly in support of an appeal. Said House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger in a joint statement: “We believe the provision struck down by an Obama-appointed federal judge is the most critical piece of the law. We expect the Attorney General to quickly move forward with an appeal of this provision... We remain confident that the state will prevail on the merits of the case through an appeal.”

Yet, just two months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an Oklahoma high court ruling striking down a similar statute. The Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled in 2012 that the state’s ultrasound law relating to abortion was an undue burden on a woman’s rights.

The same is true in this state. The N.C. law is an inappropriate and dangerous intrusion into the relationship between women and their physicians. Its goal is to shame women and attempt to manipulate them into foregoing the procedure. It is also, as Judge Eagles rightly notes, an attempt to foist on women a state-sponsored ideological message. That’s wrong.

It is a clear burden on N.C. doctors. The lawsuit, by the way, was brought on behalf of several of them and their patients.

The law allows patients to look away or bar their ears. But doctors can’t opt out. They are required to deliver the state’s scripted message. That’s an abridgment of their free-speech rights as well as needless interference with their relationships with their patients.

McCrory got an earful this summer about the state’s intrusion into this personal and private matter when he signed into law a bill that severely limits women’s access to clinics where abortions are performed. Hundreds protested in Raleigh, blasting McCrory for reneging on a campaign pledge not to support any new abortion restrictions.

Some observers say his opposition to appealing Eagles’ ruling might be his way of atoning for that. He’s right, regardless.

Lawmakers haven’t tended to listen to McCrory a lot. But they should on this. Continuing to defend this bad legislation is wrong and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

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