Judge Was Right On Abortion Law
What does free speech have to do with abortion? Plenty, a federal judge has said in ruling on a North Carolina case. And she makes perfect sense.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, sitting in Greensboro, upheld most of the so-called Women's Right to Know Act. That's the anti-abortion law that the newly Republican-dominated General Assembly passed earlier this year. Gov. Beverly Perdue unsuccessfully attempted to veto the law, which took effect last week.
The part of this ideologically motivated statue at which Eagles balked would require abortion providers to show ultrasound images of the fetus to pregnant women. The doctor also would be required to describe its features and offer a chance to listen to a heartbeat.
As we understand it, the judge reasoned that if people (and doctors are people) have a right to say what they want to, then they also have a right not to be compelled to say things they aren't inclined to say.
A Governmental Intrusion
While traditional conservatives have always had a horror of Big Brother intruding into the private lives of individuals, their contemporary counterparts have no qualms about having the government thrust its clumsy hands into the most intimate human decisions - such as whom one can marry or whether one can have an abortion.
(Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain got it right the other day when, in a candid moment during an interview, said that the abortion decision was a matter between the woman, her family, and their doctor. But he quickly came to his senses, reversed himself and fell back into the rigid party line.)
To be sure, abortions are a bad thing and should be avoided whenever possible. Many people have no problem with some of the provisions in the new law, such as the part requiring a woman to wait 24 hours before having such a procedure performed.
Let the Ruling Stand
But part of the law goes beyond that, and that's the section at which Judge Eagles drew the line. It ventures into questionable and even creepy grounds by specifying what sounds like a rather obsessively dictated speech that the doctor is supposed to deliver to the woman.
He's required to inform the patient about the risks involved, the alternatives available, the age of the baby on the day of abortion, and the fact that the father could be required to pay for child care if she kept the baby. Never mind what the physician learned in medical school. Never mind what his personal beliefs might be.
We're unaware of any other robotlike speech required in connection with any other medical procedure. And doctors who failed to comply would be subject to legal action - causing one to wonder how this squares with the GOP's general position in favor of curbing lawsuits against physicians. Eagles pointed out one absurdity: The woman is required to certify that the doctor gave her the required spiel - though she is free to stick her fingers in her ears and not listen.
The judge has scheduled a hearing on the ultrasound provision for December. The state attorney general's office, contemplating a challenge, should let the matter slide. It has more pressing matters on its plate.
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