Supreme Court rejects challenge to Kentucky's 'informed consent' abortion law

Ruben Fields
December 10, 2019

Pro-abortion activists, meanwhile, are outraged at the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case.

The Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act law can take effect immediately. "This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical".

The law requires doctors to show patients echocardiogram images of the fetus and describe to them its size and organs and have them listen to its heartbeat if it is detectable, even if the patient objects.

Kentucky's law was supported by the state's Catholic bishops who praised its intent "to ensure women have access to unbiased and medically sound information about abortion procedures and the unborn child in the womb before making an irreversible decision to have an abortion".

In a brief, the only clinic that practices abortions in Kentucky argued that the restrictions were inappropriate. The law, Kentucky said, "does nothing more than require that women who are considering an abortion receive information that is truthful, not misleading and relevant to their decision to abort".

"By refusing to review the Sixth Circuit's ruling, the Supreme Court has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship", said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

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The high court's decision not to review the ultrasound case came on Bevin's final day in office.

The law, which was enacted in 2017, requires doctors in Kentucky to perform an ultrasound before giving informed consent to a patient seeking an abortion. The court said the law imposes an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortion. The court has shifted to the right after Justice Anthony Kennedy, a decisive vote in favour of abortion rights, retired in 2018 and was replaced by Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a thin judicial record on the issue.

Eleven states now require that abortion providers perform an ultrasound on patients who wish to abort, and nine of these states require the provider to show and describe the image. The law, Kentucky said, "does nothing more than require that women who are considering an abortion receive information that is true, not misleading and relevant to their decision to have an abortion".

Civil rights groups criticized the court's decision not to accept the challenge.

The federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down parts of a 2011 Florida law that sought to prohibit doctors from talking about gun safety with their patients. It faces multiple challenges in lower courts. Next month, it will consider a Louisiana law that requires physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative majority and is closely divided on abortion rights. The judges in 2016 revoked a similar Texas law, which had led to the closure of clinics.

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