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SCOTUS denies First Amendment challenge to Kentucky ultrasound abortion law

A lower court upheld the informed consent requirement on 'professional speech' grounds.

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The Supreme Court has opted to leave in place a pro-life Kentucky law that requires women seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound of their unborn children before making the decision to abort.

In a lengthy list of court orders put out Monday morning, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case of EMW Women's Surgical Center v. Meier — a challenge to a Kentucky law that requires women seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound of their unborn children before making a final decision.

Earlier this year, the law was upheld by a ruling of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Opponents of the law — such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky — argue that by compelling abortionists to show women ultrasounds of their children, the law violates the free speech rights of abortion providers. The appeals court, however, found the statute's ultrasound requirements to be within the parameters of the First Amendment as it applies to speech required in professional settings.

"We hold that [the law] provides relevant information," the 6th Circuit opinion reads. "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. 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."

The Supreme Court provided no accompanying explanation for its decision to deny the petition to hear the case.

The ultrasound informed consent law is just one of the Bluegrass State's pro-life statutes to be challenged in federal court lately. Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed into a law a bill that would make it illegal to perform an abortion after an unborn child's heartbeat is detectable. It was blocked by a federal judge shortly after signature in March.

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