Sixth Circuit Upholds Kentucky Ultrasound Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in a 2-1 ruling upheld a Kentucky law on Thursday that requires doctors, prior to performing an abortion, to perform an ultrasound while explaining to the pregnant woman what the ultrasound depicts and allowing her to hear the fetal heartbeat. The law provides, however, that the woman is not required to view the ultrasound and can ask that the sound be turned off.

In writing for the majority, Judge John Bush held that the law is consistent with the guidelines that would allow states to implement restrictions on abortion established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Specifically, Judge Bush noted that giving relevant, truthful, and objective information regarding a medical procedure properly provides a means of obtaining a woman’s “informed consent” in a manner that does not pose an “undue burden” on the abortion right.

“The information conveyed by an ultrasound image, its description, and the audible beating fetal heart gives a patient greater knowledge of the unborn life inside her,” Bush said. “This also inherently provides the patient with more knowledge about the effect of an abortion procedure: it shows her what, or whom, she is consenting to terminate. That this information might persuade a woman to change her mind does not render it suspect under the First Amendment. It just means that it is pertinent to her decision-making.”

Tennessee is included in the 6th Circuit and the ruling is therefore binding on federal review of Tennessee statutes.

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