New North Carolina Anti-Abortion Law Demands Doctors Send Ultrasound Pics to State Officials

Reproductive justice suffers yet another blow.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / J. Bicking

In yet another attack on reproductive justice, a new North Carolina law mandates that doctors must send ultrasound images to state officials in cases where an abortion is being performed after the 16th week of pregnancy. The legislation is the latest of several recent moves by state governor Pat McCrory that whittles away at provisions ensuring access to safe, private measures for choice. The law, though it cleared the state assembly and was signed by McCrory this past summer, went into effect on January 1. 

Supporters of the bill pushed for its passage as a way of ensuring that medical practitioners are complying with state laws that prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of abortion. But reproductive justice and women’s rights advocates note that the legislation seems designed primarily to create yet more difficulties for abortion providers, and is a concession to anti-choice activists. The New York Times reports that doctors must send ultrasound images to the State Department of Health and Human Services, along with indications about the “method [for determining] the ‘probable gestational age’ of the fetus, the measurements used to support the assertion and, most controversially, an ultrasound showing the measurements.”

“It should also act as a deterrent to the doctors themselves from lying about gestational age,” Tami L. Fitgerald, of the North Carolina Values Coalition—which is opposed to reproductive choice—told the Times. “The state has made a public policy decision that babies after 20 weeks have a right to live. So this law is about protecting the rights of those unborn babies.”

But Planned Parenthood South Atlantic vice president Melissa L. Reid notes that determining the exact age of a fetus “not an exact science.” Speaking to the Times, she expressed concern that information from “the most intimate piece of a woman’s medical record” will now have to be shared with entities beyond the doctor performing her procedure. The language of the bill states that information gathered by the state agency “shall be for statistical purposes only, and the confidentiality of the patient shall be protected.”

In addition, the new law increases the waiting period for abortions in the state from 24 hours to 72 hours. If there is a reason for this extended delay except to dissuade women from exercising their legal right to an abortion, it’s difficult to locate.

"That's three days with absolutely no medical basis," Robbie Akheri, of the Charlotte Stand For Women Project, told local NBC affiliate WCNC. "This bill was written by politicians, not doctors."

The Charlotte Observer notes that McCrory has taken a number of steps that limit choice, including passing “measures that strip municipal, county, and state employees of health coverage that includes abortion while also prohibiting abortion coverage in plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.”

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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