Supreme Court declines to hear Kentucky ultrasound law

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to a Kentucky law that obligates doctors to show and describe ultrasounds to women who seek abortions, even if patients object.

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.

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The decision to deny the appeal means the requisite four justices did not sign on to hear the petition. There were no dissents from the denial.

Activist groups across the political spectrum had kept close watch on how the Supreme Court handled the petition.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the case on behalf of the challengers, lamented the justices’ denial of review.

“This law is not only unconstitutional, but as leading medical experts and ethicists explained, deeply unethical,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand.”

The anti-abortion nonprofit group Students for Life, meanwhile, celebrated the petition denial as a win for the pro-life movement.

“This is another pro-life law that will be allowed to stand and will help protect preborn babies from abortion,” the group said via Twitter.

In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, which challenges a Louisiana law that requires abortion-performing physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

This report was updated at 10:36 a.m.