High Court Refuses Check on Kentucky Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Rules

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law that requires doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to patients seeking abortions.

The law requires doctors performing pre-abortion ultrasounds to display the image during the examination and describe the images to the patient, including the size of the fetus and the presence of internal organs.

Kentucky has only one licensed abortion provider, EMW Women’s Surgical, which promptly challenged the law, calling it an unconstitutional restriction on its physicians’ speech. Though a federal judge initially sided with the clinic, the Sixth Circuit reversed and upheld the law as an allowable informed-consent procedure.

EMW appealed to the Supreme Court, pressing its First Amendment claims and arguing the appeals court created a circuit split with its decision.   

“The act, in short, is on its face a compelled speech mandate wholly unrelated to traditional informed consent and therefore presumptively unconstitutional under this court’s First Amendment precedent,” the clinic said in a petition for certiorari.

Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any statement in turning down the case. Whether any judges voted to take up the case is unclear; no judge published a dissenting opinion.

Attorneys for EMW at the ACLU of Kentucky lamented the outcome, calling the Kentucky law a political intrusion on the relationship between doctors and their patients.

“This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand.”

The Kentucky Governor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment on the court’s decision to refuse the case.

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