North Carolina Woman’s Right to Know Act (HB 854)
This law was last updated on Feb 24, 2020
HB 854 enacted the Woman’s Right to Know Act.
The law prohibits an abortion from being performed or induced without the woman’s voluntary and informed consent.
Except in cases of medical emergency, consent would be voluntary and informed if at least 24 hours prior to the abortion, the physician informs the woman orally and in writing of specific information, including the following: (1) the name of the doctor who will perform the abortion; (2) medically accurate information, including the risks of infection, hemorrhage, cervical tear or uterine perforation, danger to subsequent pregnancies, and possible adverse psychological effects associated with abortion; (3) the probable gestational age of the fetus; and (4) the medical risks associated with carrying her child to term; (5) whether or not the physician who is to perform the abortion has malpractice insurance; and (6) the location of the hospital that offers obstetrical or gynecological care located within 30 miles of the location where the abortion is performed at which the physician has clinical privileges. If the physician who will perform the abortion has no local hospital admitting privileges, that information shall be communicated.
The law also requires the physician performing the abortion (or the physician’s agent) to inform the woman that: (1) specified types of medical assistance benefits may be available to her; (2) the father is liable for child support; (3) public and private agencies provide pregnancy prevention counseling and referrals for obtaining birth control, including emergency contraceptives for victims of rape and incest; and (4) she has the right to view printed state materials, which are also accessible on the Internet, describing the fetus and listing agencies that offer abortion alternatives.
The law further requires that the woman certify in writing that the requisite information has been provided and that she has been provided an opportunity to review the printed state materials. No abortion can be performed without signed certification.
This information must be provided in person 24 hours prior to the abortion or by mail 72 hours prior to the abortion.
The law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop printed materials containing state-mandated information, and a stable website that contains the same information.
Forced Ultrasound/Waiting Period Requirement [This section is unenforceable by ruling of the 4th Circuit]
The law requires that abortion providers perform an ultrasound and place the image in the patient’s line of sight. Once the image is in the patient’s line of site, the provider must then describe the embryo or fetus in detail and offer the patient the opportunity to hear the “fetal heart tone,” even over the objections of the patient. The law contains a narrow exception that allows a patient to avert their eyes and “refuse to hear” the description, but the provider is still required to place the images in front of the patient and describe them in detail, even if a patient tries to avoid them. This provision is known as the “speech-and-display requirement.” (See § N.C.G.S. 90-21.85.)
The ultrasound must be performed at least four hours before the abortion, except in case of medical emergency.
Medical Emergency Procedure
In cases of medical emergency, the physician would have been required to inform the patient if possible of the medical indications supporting the physician’s judgment that an abortion is necessary to avert her death, and that a 24-hour delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including psychological or emotional conditions.
The law provides for civil remedies, but no criminal penalties.
This bill was vetoed by Gov. Perdue on June 27, 2011. The legislature overrode her veto on July 28, 2011.
A federal court blocked enforcement of the forced ultrasound provision of this law in December 2014. (The informed consent provisions, however, are in effect.) In March 2015, the State of North Carolina filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. (See Stuart v. Camnitz.)