(Reuters) - A federal court struck down a law in Kentucky on Wednesday that requires women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound and hear a description of the embryo or fetus.
The U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky ruled that the state law is unconstitutional because it violates the free-speech rights of the patient and doctor, court documents showed.
The law “does not advance a substantial governmental interest, is not drawn to achieve the government’s interests, and prevents no actual harm,” U.S. District Judge David Hale wrote in his ruling.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the state on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which the complaint said is the state’s sole licensed abortion facility, days after the measure was passed in January by Republican lawmakers in Kentucky.
“We are pleased that Kentucky women will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney, in a statement.
The law requires a physician or qualified technician to perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman may view the images. The medical staff were required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible.
The law does not contain exceptions for women who are facing medical complications or are victims of rape or incest.
The requirement violates the speech rights of doctors and patients by forcing them to deliver and listen to a government-mandated message, according to the lawsuit.
The law was part of a renewed effort by abortion opponents nationwide to restrict the procedure.
Some 26 states have laws regarding ultrasounds and abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive policy.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, editing by Larry King