The Supreme Court Just Killed One of the Country’s Most Extreme Anti-Abortion Laws

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/s/ultrasound/search.html?page=2&thumb_size=mosaic&inline=195719732">Sergey Nivens </a>/Shutterstock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The Supreme Court killed one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion laws on Monday.

The justices declined to hear a case concerning the constitutionality of a North Carolina law that required women seeking an abortion to submit to a mandatory ultrasound. The law also compelled physicians to show women the images and describe the fetus in detail. Unlike similar laws in Texas, Wisconsin, and Louisiana that include some exceptions for victims of rape or incest, the North Carolina measure made no exceptions for rape, incest, health risks to the mother, or severe abnormalities in the fetus.

Most abortion cases center on the rights of pregnant women, but this one hinged on doctors’ First Amendment right to free speech—or in this case, their lack of freedom to choose what to tell their patients. The North Carolina law, passed in 2011 over the veto of then-Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, was struck down by a federal district court in North Carolina. The Fourth Circuit agreed that the “compelled speech provision” was unconstitutional. By refusing to take the case, the Supreme Court has assured that the law remains dead.

Several states have passed pre-abortion ultrasound requirements in recent years. The bills became a source of major controversy in 2012 when Virginia legislators proposed a law that would have mandated invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for some women. Overall, 10 states currently require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and offer the woman the option of seeing the image, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks state-level abortion policies. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which litigates against restrictive abortion laws, indicated Monday it is considering challenges to similar laws “in light of today’s order out of the Supreme Court which allowed strong lower court rulings to stand.”

Though the justices took a pass this time, don’t expect the Supreme Court to ignore every abortion law that comes their way. Experts believe that the biggest abortion case in decades is likely right around the corner—just in time for the 2016 elections.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate