U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles last Tuesday granted a request for a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks a provision in North Carolina's new abortion-restriction law that would require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of their womb within four hours of the procedure.
In her decision to suspend this one requirement, while upholding other provisions in the law pending resolution of the lawsuit by several plaintiffs, Judge Eagles said the ultrasound requirement likely violates patients' First Amendment rights. Come again?
Various "rights groups" argued that requiring women to see what they are about to abort amounts to using women's bodies as "virtual billboards" to promote an ideology mandated by government.
Judge Eagles wrote, "The First Amendment generally includes the right to refuse to engage in speech compelled by the government," adding that freedom of speech precludes limits on "both what to say and what not to say."
As Craig Jarvis of the Charlotte Observer reported, Katy Parker, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, said the law "would have put medical providers on uncertain legal ground and harmed women." Harmed women? What about the aborted babies?
Let's apply this twisted reasoning to commercial airline travel. FAA regulations require that passengers receive an oral and video demonstration of the plane's safety features. Though safety information is clearly written on laminated cards slipped into the pockets of every airline seat, passengers are also shown what to do in the event of an emergency.
Are the First Amendment rights of passengers violated because the government requires them to listen to these instructions? Apparently not; the safety announcement is a "federal regulation," and as such, passengers must hear it each time they fly. Some of these emergency instructions might be unsettling for passengers to hear -- like how to put on your oxygen mask should the plane lose cabin pressure or how to access your floatation device if the plane is headed for a crash landing in water -- but again, no one is suggesting their First Amendment "right" not to hear such speech is being violated.
Another federal regulation requires a person seeking sterilization to receive several specific pieces of information in order to have informed consent. In addition to the patient certifying receipt of the information, the physician must also certify in writing that the procedure and its consequences have been thoroughly explained.
So, to compare this to Judge Eagles' ruling, one must have informed consent in order to be made incapable of having a baby, but denied informed consent when one is carrying a child and wants to abort it.
A federal mandate requires agriculture employers to provide an oral warning to employees of certain pesticide applications in greenhouses, farms, nurseries and forests. Another requires a home health agency to orally disclose to a patient prior to giving them care the extent to which payment may be expected from the federal government and how much the individual must pay. The comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC require banks that sell insurance to orally disclose to the consumer that the insurance is not FDIC insured.
No one is challenging in court any of these oral requirements. So what's the objection to orally and visually disclosing to a woman seeking an abortion what's inside her womb? Judge Eagles' decision, and the rationale behind it, is unabashedly political. How can more speech containing factual information violate the First Amendment, which is all about protecting, not restricting, speech?
With studies and stats showing large numbers of women choosing to give birth after viewing an ultrasound of their baby and learning about the consequences of abortion -- along with positive alternatives -- refusing to empower women in this manner makes "pro-choicers" censors and an enemy of women, as well as the enemy of another generation of babies who are not being born. This has consequences for society and corrodes culture. It also darkens our souls and harms the common good.
Cal Thomas is a synidcated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.