Free speech: Supreme Court leaves Kentucky abortion law in place

The U.S. Supreme Court restricted the free speech rights of doctors in turning down a request for review of a Kentucky law that requires patients wanting an abortion to view ultrasound images of the fetus. Under the law, medical staff must describe the images, including the size of the fetus and any organs or limbs visible. They must also amplify the fetal heartbeat so the patient can hear it. (Reuters, December 9, 2019, by Lawrence Hurley)

The Kentucky law also blocks patients from refusing to view the ultrasound. but allows a patient to avert her eyes or request turning down the sound. Anti-abortion groups claim the law is needed to provide greater knowledge of the nature of the decision to abort. (Louisville Courier-Journal, December 9, 2019, by Chris Kenning)

An expert in informed consent, Ruth Faden, (Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2019) argues that government-mandated speech deprives doctors of flexibility in determining information the patient needs to make a decision and can even cause great harm in asking a patient to view the ultra sound of a fetus with a fatal flaw or a fetus resulting from a rape.

For related FAC coverage, click here and here.