North Carolina's "Womanís Right to Know Act": Informed Consent for Abortion?
by Rich Deem


Is the fetus human?

 District judge Catherine Eagles has placed an injunction on the enforcement of North Carolina's ultrasound abortion law, citing that "these provisions are likely to harm the psychological health of the very group the state purports to protect." This statement is an amazing admission of what a women is likely to see on an ultrasound of her developing fetus.

Rich Deem

The North Carolina General Assembly passed the "Womanís Right to Know Act," which was supposed to go into effect on October 26, 2011. The act modifies the informed consent requirements for a woman seeking an abortion by requiring providers to make certain information available to a woman seeking an abortion at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure, and to perform an ultrasound at least four hours in advance of the procedure, during which time the provider must make the images produced from the ultrasound visible to the patient and must describe to the patient the images seen on the ultrasound. The requirements seem innocuous enough, but abortion advocates know that informed consent is the last thing they want to tell a patient who is paying for an abortion. The act was put on hold by judge Catherine Eagles because of possible violation of first amendment rights. Let's find out why!

Ultrasounds and fetal development

My wife and I have produced 3 children, all of whom I was privileged to to see on an ultrasound during fetal development. It is a stunning experience, watching the fetus's heartbeat as it is squirming around within the uterus. Women who have never given birth (comprising the largest percentage of those who undergo elective abortion) do not usually get to see ultrasounds of fetuses in vivo. Abortionists want to keep it that way, since it is difficult calling the fetus a "blob of tissue," when one can see firsthand that it obviously isn't. Those who have studied embryology (including the author) know that all the major organ systems are initiated within the first few weeks after conception. Science tells us that the heart of the human fetus begins to form 18 days after conception.1 There is a measurable heart beat 21-24 days after conception.2 This is only 7-10 days after a women would expect to begin her menses. Since most women have cycles that can vary by this amount, they do not discover they are pregnant until after this point. Therefore, all abortions stop a beating heart, even "early" abortions. However, most abortions do not occur until 4-6 weeks after the fetus begins to form. By this point, there are many recognizable parts (arms, legs, head, etc.) of the fetus that even a novice would recognize in an ultrasound.

Act's provisions

North Carolina's "Womanís Right to Know Act," requires a woman undergoing an abortion to view an ultrasound with "a simultaneous explanation of what the display is depicting, which shall include the presence, location, and dimensions of the unborn child within the uterus" and "a medical description of the images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable."3 District judge Catherine Eagles found this provision of the act to be possibly unconstitutional, since she said it violated the first amendment rights of doctors. Eagles states that "The First Amendment generally includes the right to refuse to engage in speech compelled by the government,"3 although plenty of other informed consent requirements within the medical establishment do compel such "First Amendment violating" speech. Eagles went on to say "The message is required even when the provider does not want to deliver the message and even when the patients affirmatively do not wish to see it or hear it."3 Imagine if all medical informed consent worked that way. What if a doctor told you, "I don't want to tell you about the risks of open heart surgery because it violates my First Amendment rights!" Yes, the State does compel certain forms of speech. What kind of speech would the abortion providers be objecting to? "This is the head. This is a leg. This is an arm. This is the fetus's beating heart." Ouch! This is not rocket science, and it isn't the "providerís medical opinion." What abortion providers do not want the patient to know is that the fetus is a living human being who will be destroyed by abortion.

Damage to patients?

Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice ArgumentsThe reason why abortionists don't want patients to know what they are aborting is that they know many patients will opt out of killing their baby. Numerous crisis pregnancy clinics offer ultrasounds for their clients, because they know that a woman is much less likely to abort her baby when she has seen an ultrasound. So, abortionists stand to lose a significant amount of money if the act's provisions are allowed to take effect. Probably the most telling statement made in Judge Eagles decision is reproduced below:

"Indeed, the undisputed evidence offered by the Plaintiffs establishes that these provisions are likely to harm the psychological health of the very group the state purports to protect."3

Why will the act likely "harm the psychological health" of women? Because they will know that they are killing a living being! Most of us don't relish the idea of being an accessory to murder. Killing another living being should be psychologically distressing. Because abortion is such a big decision, the woman should receive accurate informed consent about what she is agreeing to, in order to make an informed decision. Yes, having a baby is going to be difficult. However, for most people, being an accessory to murder is not the better choice.

Conclusion Top of page

North Carolina's "Womanís Right to Know Act" has really upset North Carolina's abortionists, because they know it will cut into their business. They know that a woman is much less likely to abort her baby if she has seen an ultrasound image of what she is about to abort. Contrary to the usual abortionist claim that the fetus is just a "blob of tissue," an ultrasound will show a living, moving human being with a head, arms, legs, and a beating heart. Yes, these images will likely lead to some psychological distress, since nobody wants to be an accessory to murder. However, as in required informed consent for other medical procedures, there are risks and benefits that one needs to be aware of before making a medical decision.


If you are a woman who has had an abortion, the purpose of this page is not to make you feel guilty. You should know that your baby is in heaven and you can freely receive God's forgiveness. However, if you are considering an abortion, I pray that you will weigh your options carefully. Even if you feel you can't raise a baby, you can always put him/her up for adoption. In many states, you can take your baby to any safe surrender site (hospitals, fire/police stations) within 72 hours of birth.

References Top of page

  1. Heart Development at the Loyola University Chicago web site
  2. "Life Before Birth" Life Magazine Educational Reprint 27, April 30, 1965, page 6.
    and Week 4 at the Loyola University Chicago web site
  3. GRETCHEN S. STUART, M.D., et al. vs. JANICE E. HUFF, M.D., et al., Case 1:11-cv-00804-CCE -LPA Document 39 Filed 10/25/11.
Last Modified December 6, 2011


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