Politics & Government

US Supreme Court refuses to review NC abortion ruling

Supporters of contraceptives rally outside the Supreme Court last June.
Supporters of contraceptives rally outside the Supreme Court last June. AP

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tacitly upheld a lower court ruling that a North Carolina law requiring women to get an ultrasound before an abortion is unconstitutional.

The high court declined to review a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down the provision in state law.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the Supreme Court believed N.C. lawmakers went too far.

“Doctors should make medical decisions, not politicians,” she said in a statement.

The appeals court found that the 2011 state law was “ideological” and violated free-speech rights. The court said it went “well beyond” what other states have done by compelling doctors and nurses to deliver a political message to their patients.

The law would have required women seeking abortions to have a medical provider describe and display an ultrasound exam near the time of the procedure, even if a woman objects. She could avert her eyes and refuse to hear the description.

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the bill, but the new Republican majority in the General Assembly overrode her veto and the legislation became law.

A federal district court judge blocked the law from going into effect, and then the three-judge panel struck it down in January 2014.

Hasan Harnett, the new chairman of the N.C. Republican party, took the opportunity Monday to use the Supreme Court decision to raise questions about N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat seen as a potential 2016 gubernatorial candidate. “This case once again raises serious questions of ethical and professional conflicts of interests for Roy Cooper, who is supposed to be our state’s top lawyer,” Harnett said in a statement.

Democrats highlighted the high court’s decision as more evidence of a GOP-led General Assembly wasting tax dollars to fight challenges to bills declared unconstitutional.

“Legislators cannot force their way into women’s reproductive decisions and this bill is a violation of the First Amendment and government interference at its worst,” Larry Hall, a Democrat from Durham and the N.C. House minority leader.

Craig Jarvis and Anne Blythe of the (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.