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While everyone is focused on the impeachment hearing in the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court just quietly weakened abortion rights in the country and rubber-stamped medical malpractice.
The Supreme Court Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and show and describe it to the patient, regardless of the patient’s wishes.
The justices did not offer an explanation for their decision to refuse to hear a challenge to a lower court ruling that upheld the Kentucky restrictions. The law, which had been blocked by lower courts since 2017 when it was enacted, will now take effect.
The Kentucky law also requires doctors to play audio of a fetal heartbeat, and it doesn’t include typical exceptions for victims of rape or incest or the pregnant patient’s health. The law was signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who was defeated for reelection last month in a race that focused heavily on abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union in 2017 challenged the law on behalf of the state’s lone abortion clinic. The ACLU argued it violates the First Amendment by forcing doctors to engage in state-mandated speech, even when they fear it will cause trauma or psychological harm to their patients.
A lower federal judge had ruled the law unconstitutional in 2017, but a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling earlier this year. The appellate court opinion, written by Trump appointee Judge John Bush, said the law gives patients more information about the abortion.
With its refusal to review the lower court decision, the Supreme Court “has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical.”
Since these laws are now “constitutional,” we should now expect a couple of dozen of states to pass their own laws along these lines, and there’s no longer any point in challenging them in court. Compulsory ultrasound and fetal heartbeat bills are now a legal and central part of abortion law in this country and will remain so in any state the Republicans control in perpetuity, or until the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is overcome.
If any one says there is no difference between the two parties, you can point to this development. On the other hand, if you thought that women were feeling sour on the GOP before, you can now anticipate an unprecedented gender gap. And it will be felt strongest in the most Republican parts of the country where these laws will go into effect. There will definitely be a substantial political backlash to this.