FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to women seeking the procedure, turning away a challenge arguing that the measure violates the free speech rights of physicians.
The justices declined without comment to hear an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of a lower court ruling that upheld the law after a federal judge previously had struck it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.
The Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative majority and is closely divided on abortion rights.
The ACLU said the law has no medical basis and that its sole purpose is to coerce a woman into not getting an abortion.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only licensed abortion clinic, as well as physicians who work there shortly after the law was passed in 2017.
Kentucky requires a physician or qualified technician to perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman can view the images of the fetus. The medical staff are required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible. They are also required to make audible the sound of the fetal heartbeat.
The law requires the physicians to continue with the process even if the patient objects and shows signs of distress. Doctors can be fined and referred to the state’s medical licensing board if they fail to comply with the Kentucky law.
Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Grant McCool