Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of North Carolina abortion law

North Carolina law would have required abortion doctors to display and describe an ultrasound image of a fetus

In a victory for abortion-rights advocates, the Supreme Court on Monday turned away North Carolina's attempt to reinstate a law that would have required abortion doctors to display and describe an ultrasound image of a fetus, even if the patient looked away and covered her ears.

Without comment, the justices by an 8-1 vote refused to hear the state's appeal of rulings that blocked the law from taking effect. Justice Antonin Scalia dissented.

Last year, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law violated the 1st Amendment because it would require doctors to serve as "the mouthpiece for the state's message."  The decision affirmed a federal judge's order that barred the state from enforcing the 2011 law.

The decisions are consistent with a series of rulings that have blocked states from enforcing many but not all of the abortion regulations that were adopted in recent years.

"Doctors should not be forced to humiliate a woman and disregard their best medical judgment in order to provide an abortion," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. "The purpose of this law was crystal clear: to shame a woman who had decided to have an abortion out of getting one."

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation, called the blocked measure "a misguided law that would have inserted politics and bad medicine into every exam room in North Carolina."

The justices took no action on another pending appeal of an abortion law from Mississippi. Federal courts there had also blocked the state from enforcing a regulatory law that would have forced the closure of its only licensed abortion clinic.

Last week, a federal appeals court upheld a similar regulatory law in Texas that would force the closure of all but eight of the state's abortion clinics. The justices may wait on the expected appeal in the Texas case before acting on the Mississippi appeal.

Twitter: @DavidGSavage

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