Lawsuits challenge North Carolina abortion law, 'Choose Life' plate

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September 29, 2011

North Carolina

RALEIGH, North Carolina: A coalition of groups filed suit this week against North Carolina's Woman's Right to Know Act, arguing it is a violation of constitutionally protected free speech rights. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) vetoed the legislation in June, but saw that veto overridden by the Legislature during a special redistricting session held in July.

Under the law, doctors are required to provide state-mandated counseling before a procedure, and require a 24 hour waiting period before receiving an abortion. Counseling provided by the physician will include information about the likely stage of development of the fetus, the medical risks of having an abortion and abortion alternatives. It also requires an ultrasound exam, with the image shown to the patient.

Senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights Bebe Anderson referred to the law as "one of the most extreme in the country."[1] Her group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, two Planned Parenthood affiliates, and some physicians, filed the suit on September 29, two days before the law is to go into effect.

According to the lawsuit, forcing physicians to say specific things as determined by legislators is a violation of their right to free speech. The groups are hoping the court will freeze the law while the suit is pending.

Meanwhile, the ACLU filed a separate suit earlier in the month on behalf of "pro-choice automobile owners" challenging the state's newly established "Choose Life" license plate, arguing it is state-sponsored discrimination. ACLU state legal director Katherine Lewis Parker stated, "The state is opening up a forum to one side of the argument. When they do that, they are constitutionally obligated to open to the other side."[2] She said there have been six attempts to amend the legislation in order to offer an alternative, such as "Respect Choice," but they all failed.

For each plate sold $15 will go to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship,[3] which states it "exists to offer help and encouragement to those God calls into pregnancy care ministry, especially those located in North Carolina."[4]


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