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Federal court rules against NC law on abortion

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A federal judge ruled against a North Carolina law requiring doctors to read a script to patients while showing them an ultrasound, saying the provision violates a doctor's First Amendment rights.

Federal judge Catherine Eagles, in a decision published Friday, ruled against a key part of the Woman's Right to Know Act passed in 2011.

Read the entire decision by Judge Eagles

The law requires a provider perform an ultrasound at least four hours before an abortion and to show the images, and describe them, to the patient.

Several North Carolina physicians and health care providers sued, saying health care providers should not be required to read that to their patients.

Eagles, in her decision, wrote, "The Act requires providers to deliver the state's message to women who take steps not to hear it and to women who will be harmed by receiving it with no  legitimate purpose.

"Thus, it is overbroad, and it  does not  directly advance the state's interests in  reducing psychological harm to women or in increasing informed and voluntary consent. To the extent the Act requires providers to deliver the state's message designed to discourage abortion, it is an impermissible attempt to compel these providers to deliver the state's message in favor of childbirth and against abortion."

The bill became law in July 2011 over the veto of Gov. Beverly Perdue, but Eagles put some key provisions on hold so she could review it.

Majority Republicans said at the time that the measure is designed to give women more information about what happens in an abortion and who is providing it.

Democrats echoed Perdue in arguing the bill represented an unprecedented government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship. Social conservatives praised the bill, which also requires a woman consider an offer to see the shape of the fetus and hear a heartbeat.

After the law passed in 2011, Planned Parenthood said, "Today's vote reveals that some legislators care more about scoring political points than they do about protecting women's rights and health.

"They are so extreme that they refused to even allow exceptions for rape, incest or when something has gone terribly wrong with a pregnancy. We urge all North Carolinians who value reproductive rights and health to remember this vote in November of next year."

But Barbara Holt of North Carolina Right to Life said in a statement at the time, "Many unborn children's lives will be saved and their mothers will be spared much heartache when the law takes effect later this year."

Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh released a statement in response to the ruling. The statement read in part:

"I am deeply saddened by the decision today in Greensboro by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles to strike down a North Carolina law that requires those performing abortions to provide a woman with an ultrasound before she decides to have an abortion. This ruling does a great disservice to the women of our State, as it denies those who are pregnant from receiving full access to all available medical information."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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