Judge blocks North Carolina’s forced ultrasound law

It’s nice to see some good pro-choice news out of North Carolina after Monday’s scary report on crisis pregnancy centers. Yesterday, a federal judge blocked the mandatory ultrasound provision in a new anti-choice state law that was set to go into effect today. (Unfortunately, the judge upheld the part requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.)

The law would require doctors to show a woman an ultrasound image, give a detailed description of the embryo or fetus, and offer her the chance to hear the fetal heartbeat at least four hours before an abortion. The doctor would be forced to do so even if the woman objected. No exceptions whatsoever. The measure ever-so-kindly allows the woman to avert her eyes and “refuse to hear.”

While this isn’t the final ruling, the judge said that the pro-choice advocacy groups who filed the lawsuit had a good case that the law violates doctors’ free speech rights. And you may remember that similar extreme ultrasound laws in Texas and Oklahoma have also been blocked.

And yet, despite these setbacks in the courts, these laws are apparently a new anti-choice favorite. Early this month, Michele Bachmann took a break from her busy campaign schedule to propose a federal bill, the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act, which goes even further than North Carolina’s measure by requiring doctors to play the fetal heartbeat if possible. And a nationwide coalition of anti-choice groups announced plans to push for such “heartbeat” legislation in all 50 states.

I don’t know if they’re just looking for more opportunities to perform live public ultrasounds or what. But be on the look out for these patronizing, incredibly intrusive, and likely unconstitutional laws to pop up in your state next!

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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