As NBC News reports from the U.S. Supreme Court today:
The Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law, mandating doctors perform ultrasounds and show fetal images to patients before they can perform abortions.
The high court declined, without comment, to hear an appeal brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the state’s lone abortion clinic…
The ACLU had argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. Defenders of the law said it represented a straightforward attempt to help patients make a well-informed decision.
The justices’ decision not to take up the case leaves intact a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the law against a First Amendment challenge that claimed the measure abridged doctors’ freedom of speech.
The Kentucky Ultrasound Informed Consent Act requires physicians, prior to an abortion, to perform an ultrasound, describe and display its images to the patient, and make the fetal heartbeat audible.
The imposition of medically unnecessary procedures to complicate an abortion is the current front line in the incremental campaign by anti-abortion activists to chip away at women’s right to reproductive choice, by making access in practice increasingly difficult–known as “targeted restrictions on abortion providers” or “TRAP laws.”
In the case of Kentucky’s mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound law, early in pregnancy it may be necessary to employ a more invasive transvaginal ultrasound probe, which (gentlemen) is inserted exactly where you think. Today’s inaction by the Supreme Court allowing this law to take effect worryingly presages other upcoming hearings on abortion restriction laws in Kentucky as well as other states.
A few years ago, the threat of such onerous restrictions on abortion rights being permitted by the Supreme Court seemed remote enough that the Denver Post, in their now-retracted endorsement of Cory Gardner over Sen. Mark Udall, arrogantly suggested that Udall’s warning that Gardner would help undo abortion rights was a “tedious refrain”–and that electing Gardner would “pose no threat to abortion rights.” Republican treachery in 2016 to deny President Barack Obama a Supreme Court appointment to replace Antonin Scalia, which Gardner supported, set in motion the historic shift to the right on the Court that has changed the political equation on abortion rights.
But in Gardner’s case, responsibility for Kentucky’s forced transvaginal ultrasound law is even more direct. In 2017, Gardner voted to appoint Trump federal court nominee John Kenneth Bush, a notorious conservative “culture warrior” activist who upheld the law last April in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s the decision the Supremes just refused to revisit.
We know there are some out there who believe the issue of Cory Gardner’s wholesale deception on abortion rights in 2014, which was subsidized by a local press and pundit establishment consumed by groupthink and mesmerized by Gardner’s mendacious charms has been argued to death, and is better laid at Udall’s feet and forgotten. In hindsight, that’s the same complacency which allowed Gardner to turn abortion politics against his Democratic opponent in 2014 despite the state’s overwhelming majority support for abortion rights.
Either way, as of today the time for complacency on abortion rights is over.