Politics & Government

Washington, D.C.-based anti-abortion group wants to join N.C. lawsuit

An anti-abortion public-interest organization wants to help the state defend against a lawsuit challenging the new law placing restrictions on the operation.

The Washington, D.C.-based Jubilee Campaign Law of Life Project has filed a motion in federal court in Greensboro asking a judge to allow it to intervene in the lawsuit brought by several state and national civil-rights groups. Last month, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles temporarily barred the state from enacting the ultrasound portion of the new law, known as A Woman's Right to Know Act.

The judge has scheduled a hearing for further discussion on the lawsuit next month, and attorneys for the Law of Life Project want to participate.

Sam Casey, general counsel for the law project, issued a statement after filing the motion late Tuesday saying he hopes Eagles permits the organization to intervene in the lawsuit "on behalf of the entire pro-life community in North Carolina and all ill-informed 'victims' of abortion."

The anti-abortion group seeks to intervene on behalf of three physicians, four women who had abortions and two pregnancy counseling centers, all from North Carolina. The lawsuit was filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union, two North Carolina affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, five doctors who perform abortions in Chapel Hill and Durham, and abortion clinics across the state.

They argued that requiring a narrated ultrasound within four hours of the operation constitutes government-mandated speech to promote an ideology.

The judge found the requirement was likely unconstitutional and cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held that "mandating speech that a speaker would not otherwise make necessarily alters the content of the speech."

In the new motion, the Law of Life Project counters that doctors and counseling centers are in a better position than the defendants to testify about what might be said in that situation. The motion also counters the lawsuit's contention that the requirement is an undue burden, saying women who have had abortions are in the best position to say whether or not the ultrasound requirement would be a burden.

Seeking to intervene in the case are Dr. John Thorp, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who contends in a declaration that the requirements in the new law represent the standard of care in the field; Dr. Gregory J. Brannon, an obstetrician who says a woman can't be considered informed about abortion without being told "tissue to be removed is a separate, unique living human being who is genetically different from the mother"; and Dr. Martin J. McCaffrey, a UNC-CH professor of pediatrics who counsels women about high-risk pregnancies.

The four North Carolina women who want to join the case are Chimere Collins of Greensboro, Danelle Hallenbeck of Bunnlevel, Tracie Johnson of Iron Station, and Lanita Wilks of Charlotte. All had abortions and say they were harmed because either they weren't shown ultrasounds or the procedure wasn't explained to them.

Also seeking to intervene are Asheville Pregnancy Support Services and the Pregnancy Resource Center of Charlotte.

To read more, visit www.newsobserver.com.