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US top court lets stand Kentucky law with abortion restrictions

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Washington (AFP)

The US Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Kentucky law that requires doctors to make patients seeking an abortion look at fetal images taken by echocardiogram and to listen to their heartbeat.

Without explanation, as is customary, the top US court refused to hear a suit challenging the state law, which was passed in 2017.

The law requires doctors to show patients echocardiogram images of the fetus and describe to them its size and organs and have them listen to its heartbeat if it is detectable, even if the patient objects.

Kentucky's authorities justified the measure as needed to obtain the patient's "informed consent" before proceeding with an abortion.

In a brief, the only clinic that practices abortions in Kentucky argued that the restrictions were inappropriate.

"There is no area of medicine that considers the forced display and description of diagnostic images over the patient’s objection or against their will to be appropriate or part of informed consent," it said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which supports the clinic, said it was "extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court will allow this blatant violation of the First Amendment and fundamental medical ethics to stand."

"By refusing to review the Sixth Circuit's ruling, the Supreme Court has rubber-stamped extreme political interference in the doctor-patient relationship," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project.

The Supreme Court legalized the right to abortion in 1973, but opposition to it remains strong in parts of American society, particularly in the so-called Bible Belt states of the South and mid-section of the country.

US President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to appoint only opponents of abortion to the Supreme Court, has so far named two of the court's nine justices.

Their arrival has galvanized abortion opponents who are counting on the new justices to overturn the 1973 decision, or at least allow states to restrict access to the procedure.

The first big test will occur in March, when the court examines a Louisiana law whose restrictions on abortion are similar to those of a Texas law that the court struck down nearly four years ago.

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