Federal appeals court rules North Carolina abortion law unconstitutional
Federal appeals court rules North Carolina abortion law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [text, PDF] a lower court decision that the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which requires physicians to display and describe ultrasound images to women seeking abortions, is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment [text]. Writing the unanimous opinion for a three-judge panel, Judge J Harvie Wilkinson III stated, “[t]he state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.” Monday’s decision upholds an injunction issued by the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] specifically on the display requirement. The state, which passed the law over a veto by then-governor Bev Perdue, will seek appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] continue to be a hot-button legal issue throughout the US, with a number of states proposing laws to limit abortions. Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down [JURIST report] an Indiana law that altered the requirements for abortion clinics who only perform drug-induced abortions. In October the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed [JURIST report] an existing state law limiting the use of drugs in abortion procedures. Also last month Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed an appeal asking the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reverse a July ruling [JURIST report] that a 2012 state law requiring abortion clinic doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges is unconstitutional. In August the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division ruled [JURIST report] that Alabama’s recently enacted [JURIST op-ed] requirement [HB 57] that all doctors who provide abortions must have staff privileges to perform designated procedures at a local hospital is unconstitutional.