Obama Appointee Blocks Ultrasound Law in North Carolina

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, nominated in March of last year by President Barack Obama, has blocked (.pdf) certain provisions of North Carolina’s informed consent law, the Woman’s Right to Know Act. Specifically, Eagles blocked provisions that would have required abortion practitioners or their trained technicians to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortion in their facilities, allow women to view the screen to see the ultrasound image, and provide an explanation of what they see on the screen. Eagles ruled that these requirements are in violation of the abortion practitioners’ freedom of speech.

The Plaintiffs contend these speech-and-display requirements violate the First Amendment by compelling unwilling speakers to deliver the state’s message discouraging abortion. [...]

[...] The First Amendment generally includes the right to refuse to engage in speech compelled by the government.  Both compelled statements of opinions and compelled statements of fact burden protected speech.

Judge Catherine C. Eagles. Photo via North Carolina Court System.

Essentially, Eagles has ruled that abortionists and their employees do not have to tell the truth to women seeking abortion if they are simply unwilling to tell the truth. The ramifications of this may cover far more than the use of ultrasounds even though this particular case dealt only with the ultrasound aspect of informed consent. If there is no provision whereby government may compel “statements of fact” in the context of an abortion procedure, then it follows that abortionists in North Carolina have been offered by Eagles’ ruling a certain legal basis for having license to lie outright from the moment a woman seeks abortion until the moment she leaves the facility.

Eagles ruled that in order to win their case, the state would have had to show there is a “compelling state interest” in requiring abortionists to reveal “statements of fact” in the context of the “speech-and-display” (ultrasound) provisions of the Act. Further, the “compelling state interest” would have to be “narrowly tailored”. The state had argued there were two compelling state interests:

  1. “[P]rotecting abortion patients from psychological and emotional distress”, and;
  2. “[P]reventing women from being coerced into having abortions.”

On the first point, Eagles claimed that the opposite is the case. Rather than protecting women from such distress, requiring women to view the ultrasound and hearing an explanation of what is on the screen would, she believes, damage “the psychological health of the very group the state purports to protect.”

In other words, the “statements of fact” in the context of a pregnant woman viewing an ultrasound image of her unborn child and having the baby’s features explained to her were deemed by Eagles to be oppressive acts against women seeking abortion. On the second point, Eagles claimed that it did not seem “apparent” that any coercion is involved when an abortionist opts to deny women access to ultrasound information.

Speaking as a woman, and as a mother of four, I cannot help but be appalled that a judge, particularly a female judge, would have any basis for a belief that seeing an ultrasound image of my unborn child might be an act of oppression, even if I were in a crisis situation.

Far apart from my own personal experience with pregnancy, as I read this decision from Judge Catherine Eagle, my heart was torn apart as I remembered an old and dear friend of mine, my best friend in fact, and her experience with ultrasound and abortion.

My friend, who I will call Angelica, was young, pregnant and unmarried. She wanted to keep her baby, but her boyfriend, the father of the child, protested. He pressured her to have an abortion. She was in her twentieth week before she finally bent to his will and agreed to have the procedure.

Angelica related to me that a technician performed an ultrasound and did not intend for her to see the screen, but that the screen was turned just enough for her to tilt her head and see it without the technician knowing it. Angelica saw the image of a baby on the screen and knew that this was a baby, but she did not have the courage to object to the procedure because she was afraid of her boyfriend and she was afraid to tell the technician that she had seen the image on the screen.

The abortion was performed and Angelica was traumatized by it. From that point on she essentially, in my view, lost her mind on some level. She used illegal drugs and drank liquor on a regular basis — daily, if she could have access to it. This went on for years. Eventually, one afternoon, Angelica simply could not live with it anymore. She took a gun and shot herself in the head. Suicide.

The issue of abortion is a difficult issue because news of pregnancy is not always welcome news. There is no easy answer to the abortion question. Either way, there is sacrifice involved. Either the parents sacrifice of themselves to help bring this new life into the world, or the new life is sacrificed to protect the parents. There is no avoiding sacrifice.

May God have mercy on Judge Catherine Eagles for imposing her belief on women and their unborn children that “statements of fact” are irrelevant because we must consider the “freedom” of the abortionist in these situations over and above the freedom of these women to know those “statements of fact” and the freedom of the child to be protected from being directly killed by an abortionist.