Federal Court Upholds Kentucky Law Requiring Ultrasound before Abortion

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A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a Kentucky law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of her unborn child before the procedure is performed.

In a 2–1 decision, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling that the law placed an undue burden on women seeking abortions and infringed on the First Amendment rights of physicians.

“We hold that HB 2 provides relevant information,” Judge John Bush, a Trump appointee, wrote for the majority. “The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient a greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her. This also inherently provides the patient with more knowledge about the effect of an abortion procedure: it shows her what or whom she is consenting to terminate.”

The law imposes a fine of up to $250,000 on physicians who don’t show and describe an ultrasound of the unborn child to the mother before performing an abortion. The mother is permitted under the law to look away from the ultrasound image and to request that a recording of the baby’s heartbeat be turned down.

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Judge Bernice Bouie Donald, an Obama appointee, writing in dissent, argued that the law infringes on the rights of physicians.

“I am gravely concerned with the precedent the majority creates today,” she wrote. “Its decision opens the floodgates to states in this Circuit to manipulate doctor-patient discourse solely for ideological reasons.”

“HB 2 is a restriction on speech that has no basis in the practice of medicine,” she added.

The ruling marks a victory for Republican governor Matt Bevin, who has signed into law four bills restricting abortion access since taking office in 2015. Two of the laws have been struck down by the courts.

“Today is a historic day, as Kentucky continues to lead the charge in implementing strong pro-life protections for its citizens,” Bevin said in a statement released Thursday. “We applaud the decision by the Sixth Circuit, which affirms the commonsense notion that patients should be well equipped with relevant information before making important medical decisions. I am grateful to be governor of a state that values every human life, and we are committed to continue our fight on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.”

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