Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Kentucky's ultrasound law has been struck down. While legal challenges to abortion laws are not surprising, U.S. District Judge David Hale's reasoning was.  He said the law that forces abortionists to provide a sonogram to women seeking an abortion violated the “First Amendment rights of physicians.”

It's unclear how the First Amendment shields doctors from withholding important information from women when they most need it. Yet we shouldn't be surprised that language and reasoning get murky when talking about one of the most controversial issues of our time.

ACLU senior staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said "Kentucky women will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions" and "this ruling puts us one step closer to getting Kentucky politicians out of the exam room.”

Such rhetoric sounds persuasive and may fire up one's political base but the question to ask is: is it true? Is an ultrasound before an abortion degrading and invasive? A politician in anyone’s examination room is a creepy thought. Clever allusion. Truth is, every medical law and regulation in the Kentucky Revised Statutes came from a politician.

Let's try for some clarity. For starters, the ACLU and EMW Women's Clinic—whom they represented in the case, are both pro-abortion which is quite different than saying they are pro-woman or even pro-choice. To be pro-woman is to empower them. To be pro-choice implies one has all the information they deserve. Striking down the law undermined both values.

I’ve heard the rhetoric first hand for years, especially while testifying on behalf HB 2 in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last January. Crisis pregnancy creates tension for the expecting mother.  How unborn life is treated divides our society. But contorting language to score political points only deepens the divide. 

Kolbi-Molinas muddled the debate earlier in the year by claiming that the law "can cause serious harm to the practice of medicine and to the patients themselves." The statement is baseless. If anything is seriously harmed, its honest discussion.

Words integral to honest discussion have been tampered with by the gatekeepers of news media. Earlier this year, the revised Associated Press Stylebook directed journalists writing about abortion to "use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice." The universal guide for news writers also says to "avoid abortionist," claiming the term "connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions." Such changes aren't about precise writing; they're about tilting the scale and shaping public opinion in favor of abortion rights.

The ultrasound law battle has been waged in the public arena for close to 15-years, but honest discussion still eludes many. Why don't we ask what's best for women? How might they be empowered? And what makes good public policy to achieve both goals?

The intent of the ultrasound law is not partisan. People from both political parties should agree that a doctor's first priority should be to practice good medicine and to fully inform their patients. Our state legislature certainly did. The overwhelming vote of  115-17 by House and Senate members demonstrated strong bipartisan agreement on the issue.

Information ultimately empowers everyone. In this case, the ultrasound law provided pregnant women with all of the latest technology and information available. They might choose to decline the information but unfortunately, Judge Hale's ruling didn't even give them that choice. He effectively says that women are better off with less medical information when making one of the most important decisions in their lives.

The path leading to that result began when violence was done to words and rhetoric was weaponized to invoke fear. In the end, the ruling leaves women in crisis pregnancies kept in the dark as they have been for so many years.