Abortion rights group wants ultrasound documentation stopped

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A new law taking effect Friday requires physicians who perform certain later-term abortions to send ultrasound images to state officials.

An abortion rights group said Wednesday that the law should be blocked by Gov. Pat McCrory, but it's unlikely the Republican governor will act. He signed a broader law containing the mandate in June.

Melissa Reed with Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic called the mandate another effort to "shame women and intimidate the doctors that care for them."

Supporters argue it's designed to ensure doctors are complying with the exception to the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

The new law, approved by the GOP-led legislature, tells physicians to provide a copy of the woman's ultrasound, with the woman's name and other identifying information removed if an abortion occurs after 16 weeks. The doctor also must disclose the clinical method used to calculate the gestational age and related fetal measurement.

For abortions after 20 weeks, the physician must describe the determination that a "medical emergency" existed requiring the immediate termination. The emergency means the abortion is necessary for the woman to avert irreversible injuries or death.

The form and ultrasound mailed by the physician to the State Center for Health Statistics aren't considered public records and will be destroyed after two years.

The Planned Parenthood group started a campaign and petition drive this week highlighting the provision. A related Planned Parenthood affiliate operates five North Carolina offices where abortions are performed.

The law is medically unnecessary and needlessly intrudes into a woman's medical decision, Reed said in a release. McCrory's office didn't immediately respond to emails or a text message.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the socially conservative North Carolina Values Coalition, said the law is "to make sure the doctors are telling the truth" and complying with the exception.

"The whole purpose of this ultrasound provision is to be a check on the abortion industry to make sure they're not violating the law and the rights of these unborn babies that are older than 20 weeks to live," Fitzgerald said.

The state Department of Health and Human Services has received no concerns about compliance since the form was released, spokeswoman Kate Murphy said by email this week.

The law also extended the waiting period before an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, beginning last October.

Nearly 23,000 abortions were performed in North Carolina in 2013, the most recent records available from the state. State medical rules already require ultrasounds be performed before an abortion.

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