Supreme Court Won't Review Abortion Case from N.C.

Article Placeholder Image
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 18, 2015 1:55 PM

The Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a controversial abortion restriction after a lower court struck down the law.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that North Carolina's mandate that doctors take ultrasounds and describe the image to women prior to abortions was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided not to review that ruling, and did not comment on their decision.

Free Speech Violations

The lower court determined that the law violated doctors' right to free speech. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote, "The requirement is quintessential compelled speech. It forces physicians to say things they otherwise would not say." The court added, "The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient."

North Carolina's statute was considered an "informed consent" law, which requires physicians to recite scripts to prospective abortion patients. While other federal circuit courts had upheld similar informed consent laws in Texas and Minnesota, the 4th Circuit felt the ultrasound requirement, and the mandate that the script be read during the ultrasound, went too far.

When Will They Hear a Case?

By declining to review the North Carolina law, it means the Supreme Court hasn't heard an abortion case since 2007. Even though many states have been attempting to restrict access to abortions, some have speculated that pro-choice advocates have been wary of bringing abortions cases to a conservative-leaning judiciary.

That could change soon, however. The Court is considering hearing challenges to Mississippi's requirement that all abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, a rule that would effectively close all of the state's abortion clinics. The 5th Circuit found the law unconstitutionally burdened a woman's right to an abortion, and the Supreme Court will have to decide whether or not to hear the appeal.

Until then, a woman's right to an abortion and the state's right to regulate that process will continue to be in flux.

Related Resources: