The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling Monday, upheld a Kentucky law that required doctors to position ultrasound images toward the patient and play the fetus' heartbeat for those seeking an abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the law on behalf of Kentucky's abortion clinic, the only one in the state. The ACLU argued that "display and describe" ultrasound laws violated freedom of speech rights for the physicians under the First Amendment.
Under the state law, a physician or qualified technician is required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible. They are also required to amplify the fetal heartbeat so the mother can hear it.
Physicians must continue with the process even if the patient objects and shows signs of distress, or face fines and be referred to Kentucky's medical licensing board.
A federal judge struck down the law in 2017 but in April 2019, the Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law.
The 6th Circuit found that because the law "requires the disclosure of truthful, non-misleading and relevant information about an abortion, we hold that it does not violate a doctor's right to free speech under the First Amendment."
The Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative majority and is divided on abortion issues.
Supreme Court justices are appointed by U.S. presidents and generally reflect partisanship on the bench.
Two of the justices that currently served are conservatives appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The vote is a preview of possible future rulings on state laws meant to curb abortion.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear another abortion case in a dispute over the legality of a Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on those who perform abortions in March 2020.