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Filed On

Sep 29, 2011

Decided On

Dec 22, 2014

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The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit on behalf of several North Carolina physicians and medical groups, challenging HB 854, a 2011 law that requires a woman to undergo a mandatory ultrasound procedure—including a “speech-and-display requirement” that her physician place the ultrasound images in her view and read a state-mandated script about the images even if the woman does not want to see the images or hear the description—and then wait four hours before having the abortion.

CRR argued that the forced ultrasound law violates physicians’ First Amendment by requiring them to deliver state-mandated and politically-motivated messages to a patient even if the patient does not want to hear them. CRR further argued that the law is detrimental to women because it serves no medical purpose and disrespects women as decision-makers by subjecting them to paternalistic “protections” by the state.


On October 25, 2011, District Court Judge Catherine Eagles issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law’s speech-and-display requirement.

On January 17, 2014, Judge Eagles permanently blocked the ultrasound requirements, finding that the speech-and-display requirement violates physicians’ First Amendment rights because it is an “impermissible attempt to compel these providers to deliver the state’s messages in favor of childbirth and against abortion.”

The State of North Carolina appealed the ruling to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 22, 2014, the Fourth Circuit struck down the law as unconstitutional, finding that “[w]hile the state itself may promote through various means childbirth over abortion, it may not coerce doctors into voicing that message on behalf of the state in the particular manner and setting attempted here.”

In March 2015, the State of North Carolina appealed the Fourth Circuit ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 15, the Supreme Court declined to consider North Carolina’s appeal. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is therefore final.